The Relationship Between The Life Of James Baldwin And Sonny’s Blues

2185 words - 9 pages

James Baldwin, the author of “Sonny Blues,” is an African American novelist and storywriter. In one of his most famous stories, “Sonny’s Blues,” he writes about a young boy that has an addiction to heroin. The story shows the relationship between two brothers and the problems that they, and their family have to endure. The brothers do not have a close bond during the time that the story takes place. James Baldwin, while growing up also dealt with many family issues. He didn’t know his biological father and had trouble being accepted into society being a homosexual African American. The boy portrayed as Sonny in “Sonny’s Blues” very closely resembles the way Baldwin must have been treated ...view middle of the document...

During these times, America was involved in World War 2, and many men were in the military fighting for the country, so one could see where the resentment would arise. When people knew a man that merely wrote stories for a living, those men were seen as outcasts. Baldwin, struggling with his identity, decided to move to Paris, France. “Baldwin found acceptance overseas as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality” (Chandler). In Paris Baldwin found some acceptance and was actually published in some anthologies. On the day that his stepfather died, the people of Harlem rioted in the streets; this was “an event that shaped Baldwin’s life and his writing” (Chandler). It scarred him for life and at that moment he realized how tough he had it growing up in Harlem. Struggling with hardships and dealing with family problems became a common motif in Baldwin’s writing.
The story “Sonny’s Blues” is written in first person and is told through the eyes of a school teacher in Harlem but focuses on the narrator’s younger brother. The story starts off with the narrator reading a news article and realizing that his younger brother had been caught and arrested in a drug bust. “I read about it in the paper… and I couldn’t believe it” (Baldwin 33). At this point the brothers relationship is far from good, and the narrator “didn’t write Sonny or send him anything for a long time” (Baldwin 36). It isn’t until the narrators own daughter dies that he realizes how important it is to be close to your own family members. After this tragedy he finally reaches out to his brother through a letter. Sonny replies with another letter and once he gets out of jail, he moves in with the narrator and his family. They begin to talk about their past and specifically their parents. Their dad was an alcoholic and he died when Sonny was just fifteen. The narrator asks Sonny what he wants to do when he is older, and Sonny replies in somewhat of a sarcastic way saying that he dreams of being a Jazz musician. “Well, you may think it is funny now, but it’s not going to be funny when your have to make your living at it” (Baldwin 42). The narrator thinks this is a dumb idea because he believes that Sonny is much more capable of being more successful. For the rest of the time that Sonny is living with his older brother, he is very quite and keeps to himself. He loses himself in playing the piano and barely shows any emotion. “It wasn’t like living with a person at all, it was like living with sound” (Baldwin 44). It is soon found out that Sonny has not been going to school, but rather hanging out with his Jazz friends and most likely using drugs. This only makes Sonny more of an outcast and the relationship between the two brothers grow further apart.
The correlation between Sonny and the author is almost too much to not notice. Sonny is described as being quite and reserved, and Baldwin being a gay black man had to have felt the same way. The setting of this story is in Harlem,...

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