Sonny's Blues

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Miranda Stephan
AP English
7 February 2013

Character Analysis of The Narrator from “Sonny’s Blues”

The narrator of “Sonny’s Blues”, by James Baldwin, tells the story of his brother’s relationship with drugs, and their environment. Unlike most of the men in Harlem, the narrator has succeeded in life. He is raising a loving family, and he has a steady job as a math teacher. However, the narrator is always cautious of the dangers that lurk in Harlem. He knows he should help take care of Sonny, but it is hard for him. It is hard for the narrator to get over his skepticism and actually understand his brother so he can help him. The narrator has a hard time connecting with his brother because he does not approve of Sonny’s desire to be a musician, he feels guilty for Sonny’s drug addiction, and he seems unemotional.

Throughout the story the narrator can be considered the voice of reason. He always urges Sonny to think what he wants to do with his life. The narrator basically becomes Sonny's father figure after their parents pass away. He tries to help, but it seems pretty evident that the narrator really does not understand Sonny and his passion for music. He does seem to actually have Sonny’s best interest at heart. When Sonny tells his brother about his desire to be a musician his brother thought: I simply couldn’t see why on earth he’d want to spend his time hanging around nightclubs, clowning around on bandstands, while people pushed each other around a dance floor. It seemed- beneath him, somehow. I had never thought about it before, had never been forced to, but I suppose I had always put jazz musicians in a class with what Daddy called “good-time people.” (52)

Another thing the narrator does not understand is Sonny’s drug addiction. The narrator feels guilty for Sonny’s addiction and he seems scared for his brother. It seems that the narrator abandons Sonny when Sonny needs him the most. The reason, Sonny thinks, that the narrator abandons him...
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