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“Sonny’s Blues” Response, Essay Example

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James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a portrait of two brothers who live very different lives, and is a story of how the power of music eventually brings them together and allows them to communicate in a way that they had never been able to do. The younger brother, Sonny, spends years caught up in using heroin, and this is the most significant issue in the story in terms of the forces that pull the brothers apart and keep the apart. Sonny eventually begins to recover from his heroin abuse, but it is not until he has the chance to perform music with his brother in the audience that the brother finally begins to understand something about who Sonny really is as a person.

One of the most notable things about this story is the number of ways that Baldwin emphasizes the great distance that exists between the brothers as adults, and in some ways has always existed between them. In the opening lines of the story, the nameless older brother is reading about Sonny’s drug arrest in the paper. This immediately establishes the distance between the two of them. The brother then runs into a man from the neighborhood that is about the same age as Sonny, and who also uses drugs, and the brother presses this man for information about his brother. Finally, after “a long time,” the brother writes to Sonny. In just the first few paragraphs of the story, the reader learns that the two brothers are separated by many years in terms of their ages, and also separated in many ways by the circumstances in life. They eventually reconnect and Sony moves in with his brother, but the emotional distance between them remains. In the end, the brother attends a show at a local club where Sonny performs with several Blues musicians. As Sonny plays his “Blues,” the brother begins to see the depth of Sonny’s pain and emotion, and is finally able to push aside the distance that has separated them for so long.

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