Brothers have a tendency to grow apart, yet eventually find a way to fix their old and rusty relationship. Sonny and his brother are a great example of how suffering can ultimately unite people. Throughout “Sonny’s Blues”, there is a constant issue between the narrator and his brother because the narrator cannot accept his brother’s drug use habit. However, this changes when the narrator realizes that his brother is taking drugs in order to cope with his own suffering. James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” shows that the narrator realizes that not everyone copes and suffers like he does, therefore accepting and understanding ways of suffering that are dissimilar from his own. The narrator in “Sonny’s Blues” has a tendency to keep his suffering locked inside himself. Considering the narrator is a teacher, he cannot really express his pain when he finds out that his brother, Sonny, is a criminal. The narrator’s pain is bottled up as:
A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long, while I taught my classes algebra. It was one special kind of ice. It kept melting, sending trickles of ice water all up and down my veins, but it never got less. Sometimes it hardened and seemed to expand until I felt my guys were going to come spilling out or that I was going to choke or scream. (Baldwin 53)
The narrator’s way of suffering is one where he slowly digests his grief and pain and lets it dwell inside him. Even though he wants to let it go, he simply cannot let himself do so because he is not accustomed to show others his suffering. Although there is no direct reason why the narrator is so locked up inside himself, it may have to do with that fact that he is the oldest child in his family and he had to learn to be independent early on. Not only did the narrator have to look out for himself, he also had the responsibility of looking out for his brother. An example of this can be seen when his
Cited: Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Eds. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2005. 53-76.