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A Rescue From Self Destruction Essay

1175 words - 5 pages

Louise Erdrich and James Baldwin wrote two similar short stories in which the stories revolve around brotherly connections. One author wrote about a brother’s struggle with post traumatic stress and the other wrote about a brother and his battle with drug addiction. The main characters, Lyman in “The Red Convertible” and the narrator in “Sonny’s Blues,” attempt to rescue their brothers from self destruction.
In both stories the main characters brothers have been remitted into society after returning from their individual battles. In Louise Erdrich’s “The Red Convertible,” Lyman’s brother Henry enlisted in the army and is called to arms in Vietnam. Before he left, the two brothers went on a road trip in a red convertible that they purchased together. The time that they spent in the car, traveling across the globe, was meant to be valuable time to strengthen their brotherly bond. When the war was over, at least in the eyes of the government, they sent Henry back home with the war still raging in his head (Erdrich 234). Henry had been captured by the enemy and the memories of the war and the gruesome things that he had encountered were still very fresh in his mind. The ghastly details of the war desensitized Henry and he was no longer the same man as when he left. Lyman noticed that people began to stay away from him. He no longer cracked jokes as he did before, in fact, “Henry was jumpy and mean” (Erdrich 234). Henry is constantly tortured by the memories of the war and can no longer participate as a functional member of society. In James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” the narrator’s brother Sonny is a recovering drug addict who has just been released from prison. While in prison, Sonny realized the error of his sinister ways and is seeking his family’s forgiveness (Baldwin 214). The narrator and Sonny maintain their relationship merely through sibling obligation, never developing appreciation for each other. As a result of isolation, Sonny turns to heroin as an escape from negligence. The isolation was the result of being misunderstood. Sonny was living in the streets of Harlem where there is little escape from the reality of drugs and crime. The persistence of the streets lures adolescents to drug use as a means of escaping the darkness and suffering in their lives (Baldwin 215). In one scene of the story the narrator thinks back to when Sonny was a teenager and recalls how he “didn’t like the way he carried himself, loose and dreamlike all the time, and I didn’t like his friends, and his music seemed to be merely an excuse for the life he led. It sounded just that weird and disordered” (Baldwin 223). The narrator carried derogatory thoughts about musicians and tried to dissuade Sonny from becoming “one of them.” Sonny’s brother associated the music with the drugs and looked down upon musicians. It wasn’t until later that he realized that it’s not the drugs that give Sonny the “high” that he seeks, it’s the music.

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