The family unit has always been an integral part of every person’s development. Naturally, the parental figure plays an overwhelming influence in the maturity of the child, but sibling interaction can be just as great. Often sibling rivalry, or alliance, outlines this connection as a person carves a path into social peer groups. This articulation of sibling influence can be understood by examining the short stories “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich and “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin, both accounts of brotherly experience shown through separation and drug abuse.
Both “The Red Convertible” and “Sonny’s Blues” revolve around brotherly connection. In “The Red Convertible,” the main speaker Lyman uses his red convertible, one he shares with his brother, as an analogy to their relationship. While reminiscing about his brother Henry, Lyman notes that they “went places in that car”, and though some people spend most of their trip remembering specific details, he and Henry just lived their lives (Erdrich 168). In other words, their time spent in the red convertible is intended more for the worthwhile company of one another as opposed to making meaningless trips simply for around-the-table story time.
Like Lyman in “The Red Convertible,” the speaker in “Sonny’s Blues” also shares a connection with his brother, although not as intense. The speaker and his brother Sonny maintain a forced relationship, one in which the speaker’s duty is caring for his little brother. A meaningful relationship does not develop between them until their mother dies, and again, the only element bonding the link between them is sibling obligation. The speaker recognizes his relation to his little brother and “wonder[s] if [the seven years’ difference in their ages] would ever operate between [them] as a bridge” (Baldwin 499). Though no profound appreciation for his little brother exists (like the brothers in the first story), the speaker upholds his position in his family’s lineage and cares for Sonny unconditionally.
Though Lyman and the speaker in the second story both withhold an intense bond to their brothers, the excess baggage that aids in the degeneration of their brothers is unexpected. In each story, separation due to war serves as a disintegrating factor that triggers the transformations of the brothers individually and as part of the family unit. For instance, in “The Red Convertible” Lyman’s brother Henry gets drafted to war, but “when he [comes] home…[he is] very different” (Erdrich 170). Where before Henry had a kindhearted and joking disposition, he wouldn’t even laugh and is “jumpy and mean” upon his return (Erdrich 170). This new attitude distances the two, and Lyman realizes Henry has become “such a loner… [and doesn’t] know how to take it” (Erdrich 172). This juncture in the story expresses the emotion that initiated the...