The Role Of Addiction In Sonny's Blues By James Baldwin

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In James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues we explore the journey of a recovering heroin addict named Sonny, through the psyche, interactions, and flashbacks of his older brother. With his brother being seven years older than him their relationship lacks the typical sibling bond but rather Sonny’s brother assumes a more anxious parental role. In this role, his brother exerts many prejudices about Sonny’s drug addict status towards him in attempts to fix and protect him. However, a seemingly insignificant encounter with Sonny’s childhood friend is a catalyst for the two brothers reconnecting in the first place. The interaction between Sonny’s brother and his childhood friend gives his brother a new level of understanding and empathy towards drug addicts. …show more content…
At first, he believes Sonny is trying to kill himself, and that he got hung in the first place because he thought himself too smart to become addicted. However, his friend disagrees saying, “He don’t want to die. He wants to live. Don’t nobody want to die, ever”(Baldwin 126). Although he may not fully understand it Sonny’s brother does not press further, he tries his hardest to wrap his head around this. This shows at least a baseline attempt at understanding and sympathizing with Sonny and others in his position. A parallel to this is shown later in the story when Sonny himself is attempting to explain why he became an addict. The concept that the use of drugs was based on a motive to avoid or alleviate suffering not to increase it is reiterated. It was the brother’s natural instinct to interject but he stops. He thinks to himself, “something told me to curb my tongue, that Sonny was doing his best to talk, and that I should listen”(Baldwin 142). The brother here is defying his own nature to allow Sonny to explain himself. Just as letting the childhood friend explain himself had led to a new depth of understanding and uncontrollable empathy for Sonny’s brother, his decision to stay quiet foreshadows the same revolution in the relationship between the two siblings.
The presence of a drug addict in any family is very taxing to all member, at times more so to the ones that are not addicts. Throughout the course of Sonny’s Blues, we see Sonny and his brother trying to reconcile the relationship that was strained as a result of his addiction. Although the brother may still be in some ways judgemental and misunderstanding the initial conversation with the childhood friend was pivotal towards to story shedding light on the motives of addicts and foreshadowing hope for the relationship of Sonny and his

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