The event in the story when the narrator describes young brother Sonny as a drug addict helps the reader understand the character of Sonny as a troubled person. Sonny’s heroin addiction has an impact on his worldview and personality traits. He feels imprisoned by his decisions and, therefore, must live with the consequences of his actions. Further, the event in the story when the narrator attended Sonny’s jazz show helps the reader understand the character of Sonny as expressive and artistic. Piano jazz music allows Sonny to exhibit his creative abilities and explore his inner feelings. For Sonny, playing jazz music is practically a mystical experience.
“All they really knew were two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and the darkness of the movies, which had blinded them to that other darkness.” (Baldwin 1). This comment indicates the narrator’s attitude about the life of Blacks. The narrator worries that most Blacks could at present be taking drugs as Sonny did. Moreover, “the darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It’s what they’ve come from. It’s what they endure. The child knows that they won’t talk anymore because if he knows too much about what’s happened to them, he’ll know too much too soon, about what’s going to happen to him.” (Baldwin 9). This comment shows the narrator attitude about what was going to happen in life. Since there is nothing the “old folks” can do regarding the approaching darkness, they remain silent.
The significance of Baldwin’s description of the music is to demonstrate that one of Sonny’s saving graces is his music. Sonny uses music to express his frustrations and subconscious longing. Sonny’s music offers him an opportunity for redemption while simultaneously threatening to ruin him. He must face the sadness and misfortunes of his life, along with the lives of people around him, to produce music.
Baldwin, James. Sonny’s blues. Ernst Klett Sprachen, 2009.