Sonny Blues is a story that shows how Sonny one of the characters encounters many obstacles in life, but he does not let them get in his way. He is successful because he knows how to deal with life’s problems and struggles, through music. Through music, he finds relief from the harsh reality of life (Baldwin). Although his past was tough, it helped turn him into an optimistic person now. And although now he does not see any problems in life, he knows that in the future, life will not be easy. Sonny is a very realistic person and sees life as it is, instead of how others think it should be seen. He believes the reality of suffering in life is an unavoidable truth.
Through the music, Sonny teaches the narrator that the blues can help everyone to be who they are and be true. The narrator realizes that Sonny relies on music to stay free and avoid suffering. With regards to the story, the narrator is a teacher from Harlem and acknowledges the dark side of Harlem. The narrator is troubled by his life in Harlem which is full of trouble and struggles (Baldwin). Sonny also teaches the narrator the real meaning of acceptance and suffering. The narrator discovered from a newspaper that his young brother has been arrested for using and selling heroin (Feinstein, 17). Sonny and the narrator begin conversations after the death of the narrator’s daughter. Sonny teaches his brother that the world is full of unfair things and that he should accept that this can be eased through something good such as the blues.
The narrator learns that Sonny has had a tough life and much struggle. He doesn’t see his past as a problem but instead uses it to help others. Through music, he accepts the reality of suffering in life and does not let it get in his way (Feinstein, 46). The narrator learns about how he responds to troubles and how he helps others with their struggles. The narrator also learns that although people may seem like they have everything under control, something could be hurting them on the inside and you wouldn’t even know it because they don’t show their emotions well. Sonny is optimistic and realistic since he does not let struggle and suffering get in his way.
The narrator is ignorant and suspicious of Jazz which makes it hard for him to listen to his brother. Regarding the story, the brothers are physically and emotionally apart. The narrator tells one of his young brother’s friends about how he had given up on helping his brother and that he had not seen Sonny in a year (Feinstein, 19). The narrator never wrote to his brother until the death of his daughter which acted as a bridge for communication between the brothers. After he gets out of prison they lead conversations that enable the narrator to understand his brother as well as the music.
Harlem is described as a place full of violence, drugs, and loss. Harlem is described as a place that has people struggling to live (Baldwin). Harlem was illustrated as an unclean and dank city that boasted little incentive and hope for ambition for the people that resided there. The lack of opportunity led to suffering and high levels of poverty that turned the area into alcoholism, crime, and alcoholism. It has many drug addicts and is full of temptations to commit crimes. Harlem has shaped the lives of Sonny and this family due to its general state and life in Harlem. Sonny’s family struggles are a result of living in Harlem. For instance, Sonny decided to turn into heroin to escape from reality and feelings of being trapped by his surroundings. Life in Harlem represents rosters of personal and social problems.
In summation, Sonny’s Blues shows how blues help through life’s challenges by allowing people to release emotions. Sonny teaches those around him how to face the harsh realities of life by not letting struggle and suffering get in his way. This shows that Sonny is a very optimistic person, as he sees life as it is, instead of how others think it should be seen.
Baldwin, James. Sonny’s blues. Ernst Klett Sprachen, 2009.
Feinstein, Sascha, and David Rife, eds. The Jazz Fiction Anthology. Indiana University Press, 2009. 17-48