James Baldwin's short story "Sonny's Blues"

James Baldwin's short story "Sonny's Blues" is concerned with the reconciliation of two brothers. One of the brothers, Sonny, is a carefree jazz musician who has a problem with heroin addiction. The other brother, the narrator who does not reveal his own name, is a conservative algebra teacher who has trouble accepting Sonny's way of life. One important theme in the story is that music has redemptive power in its ability to express the pain and suffering that all people share. In the words of Williams, "Sonny's Blues" shows that "music is the medium through which the musician achieves enough understanding and strength to deal with the past and present hurt" (147). Another important theme in the story is that there is a common bond between people in dealing with their mutual suffering. Thus, when the narrator finally accepts Sonny and his lifestyle, by extension he accepts himself and his place within the black community. As noted by Reilly, "the fraternal reconciliation brought about through Sonny's music is emblematic of a group's coming together, because the narrator learns to love his brother freely while he discovers the value of a characteristically Afro-American assertion of life-force" (169).

At the beginning of the story, the narrator and Sonny have been separated from one another for several years. Both brothers share the problems which were common to the black experience in America during the 1950's. However, they go about dealing with those problems in



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