Comparison Of Life In Sonny's Blues By James Baldwin

1147 Words 5 Pages
The function of a narrator in any story is to do just that, to narrate the story. However, skilled authors realize that narrators do so much more than simply narrate: they are an essential component of how the story is expressed. Decisions such as having a third person, first person, or omniscient narrator are critical to point of view. In the case of this story, if the narrator had been Sonny himself, the story would be significantly one dimensional; having the brother narrate provides a powerful basis for comparison of life in Harlem. In the short story “Sonny’s Blues”, James Baldwin uses Sonny’s brother, the narrator, to add a layer of meaning to the story that would not exist if the story were told from a third person point of view.
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After a stressful day, sitting down at a piano and just playing something, anything can bring out one of the insanity and rushing of everyday life. Sonny realizes that he cannot escape life through heroin, so he turns to the next best thing: the blues. Sonny makes the blues his language, heart, and soul. Isabel, the narrator’s wife, laments how living with Sonny “was like living with sound … it was as though Sonny were some sort of God, or monster,” (44) because they do not understand the enormous degree that music helps Sonny live his …show more content…
The narrator witnesses Sonny swim into the deep water, guided by the blues and Creole, not drowning because of their guidance and his own sheer intensity. In a critical instant, the narrator understands the struggle. “I seemed to hear with what burning he had made it his, with what burning we had yet to make it ours, how we could cease lamenting. Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did” (53). The narrator now comprehends the validity of music as a way to fight off the darkness and cope with the struggles of life in Harlem. He acknowledges this fact by giving Sonny a drink of scotch and milk, symbolizing the narrator’s acceptance of Sonny as a man but not forgetting the “direct brown eyes, and great gentleness” (31) of his boyhood. As the cup “glowed and shook above [Sonny’s] head like the very cup of trembling,” (53) the narrator begins to forgive and make amends not only with Sonny but himself as

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