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Sonnys Blues

By cheerlp01 Apr 14, 2013 890 Words
Brooke Erskine
23 February 2013
Intro to English
Literary Analysis Essay 1
The Leading Conflicts in “Sonny’s Blues”
In this Literary Analysis Essay I will be analyzing a story called “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin. This story is one that many may be able to relate to in there day to day life. Struggle, hardship, and family are all things involved in this story. There are many struggles between both characters and their family. In “Sonny’s Blues,” both the narrator and his brother, Sonny, are in extreme conflicts with one another, living in Harlem, and there family. All of these factors lead you into the climax of the story. When reading this story you find out right away that the narrator and his brother Sonny do not have a good relationship. This stems from Sonny’s struggles between substance abuse and wanting to play music instead of finishing school like the narrator wanted for his brother. The narrator states within the second paragraph of the story that, “He had been picked up the evening before, in a raid on an apartment downtown, for peddling and using heroin.” (Baldwin 68) This resulted in him being thrown in jail. The narrator saw his brother’s life spiraling out of control and didn’t know how to cope with it or even how to help him. This resulted in him going through a conflict within himself to decide whether he wants to reconnect with his brother and mend the fences or to cut off all ties. Another reason being that he and his brother Sonny do not get along comes from when their mother passed away and the narrator wanted Sonny to finish school and stay in Harlem but Sonny had a different idea. He wanted to escape the streets of Harlem and get away and pursue his dream with music, piano/jazz music in particular. While the Narrator was away Sonny was to stay with his soon to be wife’s parents. Sonny did not agree with this at all. When discussing the matter Sonny states “’I want to join the army. Or the navy, I don’t care. If I say I’m old enough they’ll believe me.’” (Baldwin 83) Even with this statement he still ended up staying with his soon to be wife’s parent’s house anyways. His love for music grew even more being here and there being a piano there too. “As he came in from school, or whatever he had been when he was supposed to be at school, he went straight to that piano and stayed there until suppertime.”(Baldwin 83) This statement shows his true passion for music and for playing the piano. However this also led to him skipping school more often and sneaking off. This did not sit well with the parents. He even became quit an annoyance to them. This became apparent and Sonny soon left without a word. “He went as far as the army would carry him” (Baldwin 84) The narrator struggled between his feelings about his brother throughout the whole story. When he heard about his brother being arrested he struggled with the fact that if he should write him or not. After talking to one of his childhood friends, who is also strung out on drugs, he then even gave the thought to writing his brother. But there was a big event that happened in the narrator’s life that caused him to finally contact his brother. “And I didn’t write Sonny or send him anything for a long time. When I finally did, it was just after my little girl died, he wrote me back a letter which made me feel like a bastard.” (Baldwin 72) In Sonny’s letter he explains he didn’t know how to tell him about his problem and how he is a big disappointment. However he does realize his wrong doings. “I’d rather blow my brains out than go through this again.” (Baldwin 73) After receiving this letter the narrator kept in constant touch with Sonny. Throughout all these struggles and conflicts in the story it then leads to the climax. At the end Sonny reaches out to his brother and asks him to go to a jazz bar with him. The narrator agrees. The narrator has never seen Sonny is this sort of light he always had the thoughts of the bad things Sonny has done in the back of his mind. But this time he was different, the people were different. “I was introduced to all of them and they were all very polite to me. Yet, it was clear that, for them, I was only Sonny’s brother. Here, I was in Sonny’s world. Or, rather: his kingdom.” (Baldwin 91) This was Sonny’s time to shine, this was his passion and his brother could see that as soon as he started playing the piano. He seeing Sonny playing the piano even brought them together in a sense. “For me , then, as they began to play again, it glowed and shook above my brother’s head like the very cup of trembling” (Baldwin 94) Seeing how happy his brother was playing music made the two closer than they ever have been before.

Works Cited Page
Baldwin, James. “Sonny’s Blues.”
Partisian Review (1957). Rpt. in Introduction to Literature. Ed. Patrick
F. Boles. US: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2011. 68-94. Print

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