Internal Conflict In Sonny's Blues, By James Baldwin

Improved Essays
The short story, “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin focuses on the unnamed narrator, a Algebra teacher in Harlem reuniting with his drug addicted brother, who was recently released from prison and able to come back home to their childhood neighborhood. As they catch up from the year that past, tension between them starts to occur when they both to attempt to deal with anger toward each other. The story puts emphasis on major themes of suffering, racism, a recurrent theme that Baldwin writes about in his other works, as well as the minor tragic event of Baldwin’s daughter. Though the main conflict is between their ideals that separate them, the narrator and Sonny both have their own internal conflicts to deal with. Baldwin goes through issues …show more content…
God’s grace play an important factor in how the characters react to their problem.
The word ‘Grace’ is an important symbol in the story and relates to the characters in different ways. The explicator article points out that the word, ‘Grace’, is utilized as the name of the narrator’s daughter and the biblical sense for the extension of mercy, even when that mercy is unearned (Stone). In the story, Grace is dying from polio. In contrast the grace of God are the gifts and favor that he presents us and enjoy freely in life. A troubling argument would be whether a person can ‘resist’ grace from God. It is mentioned that: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Roman 5:8-9). The Explicator argues,
…show more content…
“A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long,… Sometimes it hardened and seemed to expand until I felt my guts were going to come spilling out or that I was going to choke or scream” (12). The narrator’s problems are always bottled up and kept away from everyone else but he cannot escape the feeling. This leads to problems when dealing with Sonny. The narrator has also fallen from grace in the story. His mother tells him, “you got to hold onto your brother and don’t let him fall, o matter what it looks like is happening to him and no matter how evil you gets to him” (133). He had promised to protect Sonny and keep him going in the right path. He makes this promise hard to keep when he selfishly disapproves of Sonny’s dream to become a musician.Reilly noted that the possibility of Sonny 's being a jazz rather than a classical musician had "seemed—beneath him, somehow” (Reilly). The Narrator unintentionally ruins his relationship with his brother. The lack of understanding of his generation entices him to pretty much gives up on Sonny up until his daughter’s death. The grace returns when he finally comes to see how talented Sonny is when playing the piano. This resolution is considered a redemption for the

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    Sonny represents the brother who wants to venture on his own to take his own risk. While, his brother stays on the right path to providing and protect his family. Through the story, the narrator neglects his brother after leaving for the war. James Tackach writes in "The Biblical Foundation of James Baldwin 's 'Sonny 's Blues '" that Sonny 's brother comes a "contemporary Cain" because of the negligence (Tackach 114). This situation represents another biblical story of Cain and Abel.…

    • 1649 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    There is unresolved conflict, anger, and repressed desires that created this hole in the relationship between the brother. Despite the conflicts that both brothers fought against, they reached an understanding at the end of each store. In “The Rich Brother”, Pete momentarily leaves Donald alone in the street and drives off. However, he decides to go back because even though Donald irritates him, Donald is still his brother. The same goes for the brothers in “Sonny’s Blues.” At first the narrator doubted that Sonny could become a pianist, but Sonny proved him wrong when he learned how to play the piano by himself.…

    • 1398 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Addiction In Sonny's Blues

    • 1328 Words
    • 6 Pages

    For example, agreeing to pursuing piano by his brother’s request, shows how Sonny is trying to change himself and work with his brother to gain his respect. Throughout the story the narrator remains distant and remains in denial, and can’t bring himself to contact Sonny due to his fears that were previously stated. When a friend suggests that he will write him, this marks a turning point in the narrator internally. A realization then can be seen that Sonny’s blues is more about the internal and emotional struggle, that the narrator, as narrow-minded as he is, understands the process he is going through. He is going through the struggling process of accepting and forgiving his brother for the mistakes he made, but also forgiving himself for not reaching out to his brother sooner.…

    • 1328 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Sonny is also illustrated as a private character whom the narrator describes as someone you can’t fight with because, “Sonny just moves back, inside himself, where he can't be reached” (Baldwin 130). This is why the narrator's mother told him to “hold on to your brother… You may not be able to stop nothing from happening, but you got to let him know you’re there” (Baldwin 133). In the end he says that, “I had held silence - so long! - when he had needed human speech to help him” (Baldwin 143). This demonstrates the significance of not staying silent and the realization the narrator has made when it comes to dealing with one's own suffering.…

    • 936 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Feminism In The Piano

    • 381 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Since the beginning, she was not happy with the fact that her father sold her to marriage to a man she did not know. She was, however, content with the fact that he accepted her despite her silence. She was also not happy that he did not let her keep her prized piano, so she resented Stewart deeply. This scene embodies the overall theme of the movie by presenting a strong female character that stands up for what she wants and fights back when life seems unfair. The ending of The Piano was very strong and Campion’s change of heart would have been more realistic, but with the piano buried in the sea, she buries a dark part of her life as well.…

    • 381 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    As a result, he hates change because of his brother’s death. Also, he has a tough time because he wonders if his good friend Jane Gallaher lost her innocence. Lastly, his sister Phoebe is still young but has time to lose purity. Holden likes everything pure and perfect and nothing to ever change. He fears change and does not want to move on from the people he loves most because he cherishes relationships and fears that by growing up, he will lose the connection with them.…

    • 726 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    In James Baldwin’s, “Sonny’s Blues”, there are three differing methods. One is controlling, the other is just not involved at all, and the last is supportive. The narrator starts out with the first approach, which in that situation does not work out very well for him or his brother. He actively tries to tell Sonny how to live his life. In this way the narrator assumes his approach is the best for younger brother and while it may not be wrong, it just isn’t right for Sonny.…

    • 1195 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Sonny’s Blues The story by James Baldwin revolves around the lives of two brothers in the streets of Harlem. The narrative written in the first-person introduces the narrator as he describes his brother’s struggles with heroin addiction and what it does to both of them and their family. The two brothers have to work out their differences for the two solve their collective problems and suffering. The author digs deep into the bonds of family and the role it has to play in the general upbringing of individuals. Also the vital part of one’s nature which is the society and how it is an extension of a family and is also responsible in producing the best or the worst future generation.…

    • 885 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Sonny's Blues Reflection

    • 1429 Words
    • 6 Pages

    In James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues," the unnamed narrator, who is also the main character, and, Sonny, his brother, grew up in Harlem and struggled with inner-city life and poverty. The narrator has a full-time job as an algebra teacher, with a wife and children. Sonny, on the other hand, has gotten involved with the wrong activities and people and has recently been arrested for selling and using heroin. The narrator of the story has a difficult time with the way Sonny lives his life, as he struggles to accept and understand the choices Sonny makes. The narrator cannot understand his brother and cannot deal with what he has become.…

    • 1429 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    What does controll his emotions, is the relaxing, yet depressing tunes of jazz music. After Sonny listened to a street signer he tells his brother was he relizes "..it struck me all of a sudden how much suffering she must have had to go through--to sing like that. It 's repulsive to think you have to suffer that much." (Bladwin 142) Sonny 's brother understands how no one has been there next to Sonny to listen and advice him correctly. " Whereas his intellectualism and emotional distance has kept him from understanding Sonny, he begins to feel understand his brother, having suffered himself from the loss of his daughter.…

    • 1300 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays