Brothers in Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

The story described in Sonny’s Blues stays relevant these days, and many people meet the same living conditions as the book’s main characters. The author presents to his readers the lives of two brothers who and do not share the same interest. Sonny, the younger brother, ends up in jail for selling and using heroin when the older brother, whose name is not revealed, treats him with contempt. Throughout the book, the reader defines a special morality. As the book was written from the words of the storyteller, more sympathy went to the character of the narrator.

The narrator, who is the older brother, presents the story from his point of view, and readers do not see the emotional side of Sonny. This specific way of writing makes people more sympathetic to the older brother than the younger one (Johansson 20). This person has succeeded in life and became a professional math teacher. He loves his family and is always ready to help. However, all the living conditions which happened to his brother Sonny do not allow the narrator to use all his strength to help one of the closest family members. Even though their life became successful, the storyteller constantly catches flashbacks that do not allow him to live a normal life, stay optimistic, and build a future for his children. Baldwin says that African Americans had to fight for their rights, and the spiritual strength of one of the main characters plays a significant role in overcoming difficulties. This fact fascinates people who read the book, and more sympathy goes to the narrator. When the older brother loses his daughter, this character opens from a different angle as his relation to the brother becomes clearer, and readers have more sympathy for this person.

In comparison to the narrator, the behavior of Sonny was not fully described, and readers can understand this figure only from the stories of the storyteller. However, the appearance of the younger brother does not always express sympathetic emotions in readers. Sonny is addicted to drugs, and he got to jail for selling heroin. This character is a good musician, and his older brother states that he could become a great musician. However, the uneasy background of the African American destroyed many plans, and Sonny was so depressed that he ended up in prison. After jail, there was no motivation to move forward, and the younger brother could not leave the dark background to become successful.

The relationship between both brothers might be controversial as one of them has managed to cope with life difficulties and become successful, but the other ended up in a complicated life situation. Many readers can mention that more sympathy goes to the narrator as he manages to overcome all difficulties. However, both brothers had to go through harmful life situations, and they cannot be judged by their appearance or set of minds. Consequently, some people may not be able to decide whether the narrator or Sonny expresses more sympathy and empathy.

Older siblings usually act wisely, and they might grow up quickly to help their parents with younger siblings. This aspect shows the maturity of some children who are responsible for their actions. The story of two brothers in Sonny’s Blues is one of the common examples when one of the siblings is seriously responsible for his younger brother when his parents pass away. The wisdom of the narrator attracts me as a reader, and I became more sympathetic to him. The uneasy background did not destroy the personality and strength of the character. This side of the story fascinates and creates specific attitudes for both brothers.

When the narrator first finds out that his brother takes and sells heroin, the world changes, and he cannot believe that this is happening to his family. The ability to control emotions impresses me, and throughout the book, the interest related to this person increases. The book is written in the first-person method, and readers can deeply analyze the older brother’s life as he shares personal emotions and concerns. When readers understand one character more than another, the general relationship might be ruined, and sympathy may arise for a better-described person in the book. The storyteller blames himself for many problems his brother has, which is not a positive side of this person. However, when evidence supports these concerns, readers create a final attitude to this individual.

I see the narrator from a positive perspective as he is trying to maintain his family but is still afraid of failure which is normal for human individualism. “I couldn’t believe it…I couldn’t find room for it anywhere inside me…I hadn’t wanted to know.” (Baldwin 42), said the main character when he first realized that his brother is related to drug selling. The ability to not give up and continue fighting attracted me more. While Sonny was not strong enough to overcome this addiction, his older brother created diverse methods to cope with this problem and rebuild a healthy family. When the younger brother got to jail, the motivation of the storyteller disappeared, and he was struggling to write a letter to his sibling. However, a strong desire to cope with all problems that have been rising throughout many years has won, and I became impressed by the strength of the spirit to continue fighting for happiness.

To conclude everything that has been stated so far, every reader might find a specific idea in the book. By relying on the small points mentioned by the narrator, diverse opinions can be created. Two people from the same backgrounds grew up differently, which makes others think about different personalities and why such situations happen. Both of the characters have positive and negative aspects which express diverse emotions in readers. However, I became more sympathetic to the older brother as his personality was described better from different angles. Uneasy life conditions made the narrator stronger, and he managed to become successful in life. Hard work attracts readers, and more people might take the side of this brother due to this fact.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. Sonny’s Blues. Penguin. 1957.

Johansson, Marie Seljehaug. An investigation of empathy in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”. 2019. UiT The Arctic University of Norway, PhD dissertation.

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