Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

The excerpt called Sonny’s Blues written by James Baldwin portrays the constant struggles faced by any teenager living in Harlem. The narrator in the story revealed his younger brother having difficulty in trying to escape a drug-addicting life because he was struggling as a teenager using and selling heroin. When the narrator had flashbacks of the time when before his mother died, he recalls when his mother told him to look out for his brother just like how his mother looked out for his father. “I think I may have written Sonny the very day that little Grace was buried. I was sitting in the living room in the dark, by myself, and I suddenly thought of Sonny. My trouble made his real” (Baldwin 65). This turned out to be significant because the narrator’s daughter named Grace died at a young age due to polio. As a result, the narrator was contained in his own darkness, similar to Sonny’s darkness of drug addiction. It has made him accept reality, realized that life is too short to hold grudges and should be more accepting and caring toward others such as his younger brother Sonny.

Constant struggles were emphasized when the narrator mentioned about his students in class. As a math teacher teaching his students about Algebra, he realized that any of his teenagers could be in the position to become like Sonny. “Yet it had happened 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. Maybe it did more for them than algebra did” (Baldwin 52). This quote shows the narrator’s perspective of the students attending middle to high school can be easily persuaded to fall into the accessible road of drugs as one of the constant struggles faced by a teenager. I agree with the narrator that teenagers are prone to street influences. Attending school educates the young minds but does not keep the children away from street influences.

In Sonny’s perspective, we learn that Sonny escapes Harlem in hopes to escape the drug influence. We can tell that Sonny is not a bad person at all. He is trying to escape the influence of drug addiction and he uses music as a way to escape reality. Although he was cutting school and did not tell his brother, he showed that music was the only thing that maintained his comfort level around his brother’s wife’s family home. Isabel tried his best to look out for Sonny’s best interest but he did not have any interest in school. His music was his life and it gave him a goal to strive for. It caught my attention when the narrator actually had a chance to see his brother perform live and play in front of other people, being the star he wants to be. It showed a sense of love between the brothers when the narrator ordered some drinks to the band stand and Sonny sipped his drink after turning his head toward the narrator showing his acceptance of appreciation.

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