The Past and Present Life of Two Brothers in Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

Table of Content

Sonnys Blues is a short story about the past and the present life of two brothers set in Harlem. Sorrow and Pain are part of their lives, and the two brothers view the world surrounding them very differently. Sonny and his brother learn to deal with pain, suffering, and desire for escapism from Harlem in different ways. Sonnys brother is wishful of living a life outside of his teaching career, he wants more out of life. He knows that there must be something better in the world then what is in Harlem.

The narrator tells many stories from their childhood to the time that they are grown up with the death of their parents and how the are separated, this explains their distinctness. Sonny and his brother are both in deep search for breakout from the filth and bareness of Harlem. In their own ways both characters want to retrieve some of their past to cope with what has happened, this in a way helps the narrator come to the realization of Sonnys dreams.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

The characters are described in the story are both desperate to find faded memories that are left behind of their childhood before the pain and misery came to their life. They were happy for a little while before the death of their parents, little Gracie and the use of drugs. Harlem is not what it use to be to Sonny and his older brother, now they can only see through make believe, and prejudiced view of their eyes. The reader can see that both brothers want to get as far away from Harlem as they can, but the harder they try, the more difficult it is.

To escape the darkness of Harlem Sonny, got involved in using drugs, by doing this he was able to fill the void and lack of support for his music from his brother. The narrator neglected Sonny when he needed him the most, after their mothers death. Sonny was not given any decision-making authority into what he wanted to do with his life. Sonnys brother forced him to stay with Isabels family. he was forced to withdraw and create his own world in which only existed his music and no one else. Sonny devoted much of his time to the piano that he played almost every day. Although Sonnys brother wanted him to attend school and learn better things, he did not follow his brothers advice to pay attention to schoolwork, instead he played his music.

Sonnys brother was unhappy with his teaching career, he thought of his students as unworthy of his teachings. He sensed a lack of respect and attentiveness from them, he wanted more from them. Every time he would see a student, it would remind him of Sonny and at times the narrator feels responsible for some of his students that were using drugs. This may have aided in the cause for writing to his brother Sonny and showing that the narrator still had some form of hope for him.

When playing in the club, the narrator gives a vivid explanation of how everything is set up and of how all the other musicians know Sonny so well. It was as if the narrator had entered Sonnys domain. Everyone loved Sonny at the club, almost like a father loves his son. This was an important factor where Sonny had to show courage and strength to his brother that doubted his musical skills. The narrator sees a change in the atmosphere and a change in Sonny when he takes the stage to play his music.

The narrator describes how musicians use their music to clean their souls, just like some people talk about the serious problems facing them. This was true with Sonny because he never had anyone to consult his problems with, and the only time he wanted support for his music it had been negative. After much struggle Sonny was able to find a way to communicate with others through his music and was able to show his skeptical brother that he could really play music and make his brother come to a great revelation.

When the narrator is in the nightclub listening to his brother play, he recalls his mother, the moonlit road his uncle had died on, his wifes tears for the death of their little Gracie, and why Sonny was driven to use drugs. He responds deeply to the music and is able to find himself through his own suffering, with the help of his brothers showing him that dreams can come true only if you have the strength and courage that Sonny had. The narrator changed his perspectives about his brother and his feelings towards other members of his family. The two brothers find a common bond through the music, a bond that no one can touch. Sonny has shown the narrator that his dream has become a reality. Now that Sonny has made his brother come to a great revelation in his life, it is up to the narrator to change the things in his life that he can still change.

Cite this page

The Past and Present Life of Two Brothers in Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin. (2022, Dec 26). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront