Julian P. Stoner Professor Scannell ENGL 2030 ? 024 September 24, 2008 Learning to like Sonny Throughout life, many people struggle with family for various reasons like unplanned pregnancy, drugs, and education. In the short story ?Sonny?s Blues? by James Baldwin the reader follows the narrator through a large portion of his life as he struggles with his brother, Sonny. As the two brothers struggle with their own relationship, they also must work around the conflict presented in their environment as they grow up in Harlem. The narrator is not very close to his brother in the beginning but as time progresses the narrator changes his attitude towards Sonny. This story shows us that even when brothers are torn apart they can renew bonds of friendship and love if they are willing to put in the time. I felt like I could trust the narrator throughout the story as his feelings toward Sonny change because I have personal experiences of my own that relate to the events that take place. In the beginning of this short story the reader quickly learns of the narrator?s mixed feelings towards his brother. His neutral opinion is brought out when he states with no hard feelings, ?He [Sonny] became real to me again? (Baldwin 176). The narrator consequently reflects on Sonny?s personality describing him by thinking, ?I told myself that Sonny was wild, but he wasn?t crazy? (Baldwin 176). After conversing with an old friend of Sonny?s the narrator recalls that it was a long time before he wrote to Sonny. It took the heart rendering event of the narrator?s daughter?s death to open up a previously shut door. A sense of a gap between the brothers can already be felt. Many readers understand that many possibilities can cause a breakdown of communication, but most will realize that the first statement demonstrates that there was a painful falling out between the pair. The narrator helps draw a picture by giving the reader a likely cause for their split. However, the narrator?s neutral opinion comes out when he is willing to renew communications with Sonny. While the narrator seems to easily forgive his brother, I felt a harsher opinion as I read this tale. During a flashback Sonny states with dignity to the narrator, ??Don?t do me no favors,?? which leads me to believe that he is very ungrateful for everything his brother is trying to do (Baldwin 186). Sonny also writes in a letter that he wanted to write to his brother but realized he had hurt the narrator so he chose not to. During a discussion between the two the narrator questions if Sonny can make a living by playing music and Sonny proceeds with a snappy reply to a simple concern (Baldwin 186). The narrator is even forced to plead with his brother to finish school (Baldwin 188). Even his brother has worked so hard to set up arrangements for Sonny?s school and housing he runs away and joins the navy, resulting in losing contact with his relatives (Baldwin 189). Readers will find it strange when Sonny chose not to attempt to renew a lost friendship even though he was so desperate for it. His lack of gratitude is ever more present when they almost break into an argument even though the narrator is only concerned with his well being. I understand where the narrator is coming from since I have an older brother who got involved in an unplanned pregnancy. It seemed to me that if he had stayed in closer communication with family then perhaps he would have made a better decision. This personal experience led me to trust the narrator. Any reader can be instilled with great trust in the narrator just by learning of his background. He is a high school algebra teacher and has a family of his own, including a wife and two sons. His mother also asks him to watch after Sonny (Baldwin 179-180, 183). Most reader?s faith is secured in the narrator by understanding that society as a whole places great trust in teachers. A father must be an honest man in order to lead and support his household. It is because of this trust that I was able to understand the narrator?s adjusting feelings towards his only brother. After the narrator has picked up Sonny from jail and given him a home, the reader acquires a sense that the narrator is beginning to like his brother. The narrator also states his concern for his brother?s well being when he says, ??I just care how you suffer?? (Baldwin 193). It is at the end of this short narrative that the reader is truly exposed to an almost unnatural process of the brothers bonding through Sonny?s music at the jazz club (Baldwin 197). Anyone will tell you that a true friend will pick you up from prison; while the narrator may not wholly understand Sonny?s experiences he still shows true compassion when he concerns himself with Sonny?s suffering. At the jazz club the brothers experience a unique connecting experience as Sonny communicates his love of his brother through his music. These details showed me the brothers? love for each other, and I began to personally like Sonny. Watching the brothers? relationship grow, I found myself liking Sonny increasingly as the story continued. The narrator?s feelings towards his brother have been damaged when he contemplates searching his brother?s room for drugs (Baldwin 190). Sonny even openly admits to his brother ??It [addiction] can come again?? (Baldwin 195). Despite his drug problems, Sonny has now matured and invites his brother to join him at a jazz club (Baldwin 192). The narrator has been affected greatly by his brother?s early choices with drugs and says, ?I didn?t know what I?d do if I found it. Or if I didn?t? (Baldwin 190). This shows that even after the problems the narrator still has faith in his younger brother. Sonny repeats himself when he says that the addiction could come again; this could be symbolic but it still doesn?t shake the faith of the narrator and I admire that Sonny has come to terms with his problem and willingly admits it. I like that Sonny is striving to renew his friendship with his brother. After realizing the situation he was in and working to right it, my older brother began to reopen himself to my family. For me it was good to talk to my brother since I finally got to get closer to a seemingly lost relative. These similar experiences helped me continue to trust the narrator throughout the story. The reader will not lose faith in the narrator by the ending of the story. I still trust the narrator because he has continued to support and keep his family happy (Baldwin 190). He has also taken a big step by accepting Sonny into his home saying, ??when Sonny had been living with us, or, anyway, been in our house, for nearly two weeks?? (Baldwin 190). The reader will also recognize the narrator?s fatherly instinct as he examines Sonny?s ?kingdom? to make sure it is a good place (Baldwin 195). The reader will know his family is happy when the narrator casually mentions that his wife and children are visiting their grandparents because most people enjoy a short trip to visit relatives (Baldwin 190). The narrator?s nature does not let the reader down as he doesn?t leave his brother out in the cold. He even watches after Sonny after taking his brother into his home. Even though his brother may have made mistakes in the past, the narrator was able to move past these things and change his judgment of Sonny from a neutral opinion to liking Sonny as a brother and a friend. Throughout the story, the narrator wonders about Sonny but their friendship seems truly repaired after the narrator?s daughter, Gracie, died and caused the brothers to begin writing to each other and keep in constant touch (Baldwin 180). For me the biggest adjustment seemed to take place when the narrator was willing to trust Sonny by letting his brother into his home (Baldwin 190). Tragedy will bring all families back together, but it is when they stick together in the following time that true family love is shown. In conclusion, I believe that the narrator and the reader may begin by disliking Sonny but will see him through his brother?s eyes and change their outlook to like Sonny.
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