Sonny's Blues Essay

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Sonny’s Blues – Sonny’s Catharsis Throughout James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues” (1957), the narrator is trying to make sense of his brother Sonny, a drug addict musician who had been caught using and selling heroin and sent to prison. He continuously comes back to blaming himself and the people near him for what has happened to Sonny. Nevertheless, he never sees the situation from Sonny’s perspective, until the last scene at the nightclub, which is when he starts understanding Sonny’s life and the role of jazz as catharsis for him. When Sonny first asks his brother, the narrator, to go out with him, the narrator “sensed… that [he] couldn’t possibly say no”. This happens right after he’d been watching Sonny through the window of his Harlem apartment, without the haze of his own ego getting in the way of seeing who Sonny really is. The narrator’s brother is standing at the edge of the crowd of an old-fashioned revival meeting. He sees the faintly smiling Sonny staring at the crowd making music that “seemed to soothe a poison out of them”. He observes Sonny’s walking style – something he had never paid attention to before. This scene is a turning point for the narrator, who becomes taking the observer role in the story, and for the first time of his life, starts to get to know his brother Sonny. It is not until he goes to the nightclub to hear Sonny play until he realizes this himself. When the narrator and his brother, Sonny, step in to the nightclub, their roles in the story change radically. Instead of being the guardian of Sonny, the narrator becomes the humble observer in his brother’s “kingdom”. This part of Sonny’s life is something the narrator had never seen before. Here Sonny is respected, loved, and even admired; quite the opposite of the previous view that the narrator had on his brother. The people, in particular a big, older

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