Analytical Essay - "Sonny Blues" by James Baldwin

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  897 Words
Date:  2022-10-25

In the short story "Sonny blues" of James Baldwin is a relationship strain between two brothers with alternative life path. The unnamed narrator gives a first-person voice of the diverse difference between him and his younger brother. In his perception, the narrator who is an educator feels he has a better life than his brother who is a convicted criminal among other hardships. The story "Sonny Blues" is at the backdrop of Harlem city bring out the motif of educational deprivation and civil corruption where the people in the city suffers geographical and cul, natural misfortunes in a racial society of African American composition. The narrator had tried to assimilate to the white society though he still suffers the pain of unfulfilling opportunity limitations. However, his brother was not well acquitted with white culture be the cause he, Sonny, had not taken any efforts to assimilate and finds the solution to his pain through drug and substance abuse. This paper will conduct and analytical evaluation of the plot development arguing why certain occurrences were happening in the society as well as understanding the character development, why certain characters acted the way they did. The analysis will explore a third party reader's understanding on the situations and barriers affecting the plot and the characters in the development of the narrator 's, perception as the story's protagonist in the development of the themes and author official position or standpoint.

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

The setting of the story begins at the city of Harlem where the commuter, the unnamed narrator, reads about his long-lost younger brother, Sonny, in the public media of the newspaper on his way to work. The article reads that his brother had been convicted of drug-related charges. The news overwhelms the narrator because of the contradiction that he believed that his little brother would not do such a thing. He tried to console himself that Sonny was a good boy when he mentions that "....He hadn't ever turned evil or disrespectful, the way kids can, so quick, so quick, especially in Harlem....." (Baldwin 127). In his inner personality, the narrator started justifying his brother's actions claiming that he was one of the better young boys in the city of Harlem. He blamed the effects of the society's peer pressure, his friends or other people around him had influenced his brother to engage in making the wrong decisions in life. He makes a comparison of his brother with the students he was teaching saying that "...... and here I was, talking about algebra to a lot of boys who might, every one of them for all I knew, be popping off needles every time they went to the head." (Baldwin 127). The narrator was reluctant to accept the reality on the contrast between the kinds of life he and his brother lead with justifications that any other boy in the city was likely to become a drug offender but not his brother. Throughout this scene, the narrator shows his denial of the truth and the contrast of the expectations of their character development.

The character development of the protagonist, the narrator, is a high school teacher and the husband of Isabel. The narrator is leaving school and comes across his brother Sonny's old friend and they have a small chat on sonny's arrest. They talk about their fears and the friend tells him that he cannot help Sonny anymore. This conversation angers the narrator the talk reminds his of his abandoned responsibilities towards his brother earlier in their lives. He personally had given up on his own brother and had not even seen Sonny in the last year. He had only kept in touch with his brother when his daughter passed on. It was the only other time that he looked for his brother again. The narrator reflects on his mother's story and realized how he needed to be there for his younger brother as his elder brother. The narrator was consumed by a feeling of guilt that he had not fulfilled his mother's wish to look out for Sonny. He recalled how their relationship with Sonny had changed after she choice to become a jazz musician before finishing his high school degree. According to the narrator, jazz lifestyle had a close connection to drug abuse and his younger brother had made a choice but there was nothing more he could do.

Conclusively, the story progresses unleash the narration on the relationship of contrasting brothers with different moral values and perception of life. Throughout the development of the plot, the narrator as the elder brother realizes his fault for judging his younger brother, Sonny because of the choices he made in life. The perception of the narrator towards jazz lifestyle brings out his regressive thought and association of the kind of life his brother lead with drug association. Again, his perception of the morals of his brother having been influenced by his peers and the neighborhood showed his business in the social morals of others and the tendency of the blame game. Later in the story, the narrator realizes his own shortcoming towards his moral responsibility in the society and towards his younger brother and tries to patch up their relationship by participating in the life he previously condemned the morality of it all.

Works cited

Baldwin, James. "Sonny Blues." The Jazz Fiction Anthology Ed. Sascha Feinstein and David Rife. Bloomington: Indiana Up, 2009, 17 - 48.

Cite this page

Analytical Essay - "Sonny Blues" by James Baldwin. (2022, Oct 25). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism