Sonny's Blues/Music&Change

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The story Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin is the story of the tumultuous relationship between two brothers. The anonymous narrator, a well-off Harlem algebra teacher, is seven years the senior to his brother Sonny. The narrator is a cold and judgmental man. Sonny is a jazz pianist whose passion for music is not comprehended by his older brother. The story is not in precise chronological order; however, Baldwin allows everything to come full circle in the end. As we follow the relationship of the narrator and Sonny, we see that suffering can be transformed into an art form such as blues music. The music helps to serve as a means for change. Through this change the narrator begins to understand not blues and Sonny, but also himself.

The beginning of the story finds the narrator learning of his brother, Sonny’s, arrest via the morning newspaper. Sonny was arrested for the use of heroin and the narrator is shocked and disturbed, and it is this shock that helps to initiate the healing of the brothers’ relationship. The narrator encounters one of Sonny’s old friends after work on the same day he heard the news. He is very guarded in the conversation. For no reason, he feels a sense of hatred towards the friend. He states, “But now, abruptly, I hated him.” The friend continues the conversation by telling the narrator that he was the first person to tell Sonny about the effects of heroin. It is at this point that the narrator begins to feel a little compassion as well as a little guilt. He still however, is slightly guarded. But he does show that he cares when he shyly asks “so what’s going to happen to him now.” It is in this situation that we first see that the narrator truly does care about his brother.

Although secretly caring deeply for his brother, the narrator does not contact Sonny for a very long time. The death of his daughter, Grace, prompts him to write a letter to Sonny. Sonny’s reply shows his desperation to reach his brother. The brothers continue to...
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