Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin was published in 1957. Later, it has become a part of Baldwin’s collection of short stories that was published under the name Going to Meet the Man. It is a story about the African American family of a mother and two of her sons. The action takes place prior to Civil Rights Movement and shows a lot of details along with a general big picture of oppression of minorities back then.
The two brothers are extremely different: one is a math teacher, and another one — Sonny — is a jazz musician who eventually ends up being a drug addict and a dealer. Sonny’s destiny has a lot to do with personal conflict and desperation but is also tangled with a historical context of those times and his relationships with the people who surround him.
All the main characters represent an idea of suffering and surviving. Mama, who the writer introduces to us in the beginning, is a representation of a nature that has been enduring the darkness for as long as it has been around. She appears as a strong character, who had been facing oppression her entire life and yet managed to pull through and survive, along with raising two children in a poor, unaccepting neighborhood.
Regardless of an emphasis being put on Sonny, both brothers’ natures are equally important to be taken into consideration in order to fully understand the story. Sonny is desperately into drugs, yet his older brother feels a special kind of responsibility for all the poor choices that Sonny makes. Sonny’s older brother never took him seriously. Partially because of their age difference of seven years, but a good chunk of them not getting along were their completely different lifestyles. Nevertheless, in the end of the story, the author finally brings the brothers together giving them a chance to understand why each of them acts like he does. The family tension in Sonny’s Blues is portrayed as a misunderstanding, rather than a conflict with no way out.
The moral of the story is, sometimes suffering is a way to survive. James Baldwin lets his characters feel all the pain and oppression, yet his idea is not to break them, but rather to help to grow stronger. Within the concept of hard times for minorities, family conflict portrayed in Sonny’s Bluesproves its value on both spiritual and socio-historical levels.
Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin was published in 1957. Later, it has become a part of Baldwin’s collection of short stories that was published under the name Going to Meet the Man. It is a story about the African American family of a mother and two of her sons.