Suffering In Sonny's Blues By James Baldwin

Improved Essays
Is the act of suffering an unavoidable circumstance? Can people ever truly find relief from the struggles they face? On some level, we can all relate to the feelings of pain and hopelessness in our lives. We often bottle these feelings up, creating a strain within ourselves and the people around us. In the short story, Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin we are introduced to an unnamed narrator who has dedicated himself to living an orderly life, sheltered from the violence and suffering of the world around him. This led him to disconnect to his brother Sonny, who didn't choose the same traditional pathway as he did. Through the eyes of this unnamed narrator, Baldwin deals with the theme of suffering.
Initially, Baldwin explores how people have
…show more content…
It starts early on, with the narrator's father who suffered from his brother’s death, but chose to suffer privately. This only led him to turn to alcohol and the narrator’s mother says that, “[His] Dad never did really get right again” and if it wasn't for her enduring his tears, he wouldn't have made it (Baldwin 133). This shows how suffering silently can turn people bitter and strain relationships. The narrator dealt with his suffering in the same way, bottling up the guilt he felt over not being able to protect his brother nor his family from suffering. 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. Through this Baldwin doesn't try to give any solutions to end their sufferings, but he tries to emphasize the importance of expressing suffering in order to manage it. With this …show more content…
Isn’t it better; then, just to - take it?
But nobody just takes it, that's what i'm telling you! Everybody tries not to. You’re just hung up on the way some people try - it's not your way! (Baldwin 143).
In criticizing the narrator's views on trying not to suffer, Sonny reveals that at the end of the day they both are trying to find ways not to suffer and the only difference is their approach. In the end, the narrator is able to find relief through Sonny's music. He is able to feel Sonny’s sufferings and is able to connect to his own. Through this Baldwin ends on a more positive note, demonstrating that although there is no way to not suffer, there is no harm in trying.
Altogether, we can conclude that Sonny's Blues explores the topic of suffering through the lives of two brothers. The narrator grapples with this theme throughout the story, learning to sympathize with the suffering of others. He is able to finally come to terms with the path his brother chose and forgive himself from not being able to protect him. In a way, Baldwin is able to use the effects of suffering in one person's life to highlight the overall sufferings of a community and a

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    It signifies the suffering and the fear that plagued the people, as well as the promise from God to take it away. Similarly, Baldwin uses the cup of trembling to highlight Sonny’s need for music as it decreases his suffering from a difficult and complicated position that he is in, while removing the fear from the narrator that his brother isn’t able to acquire success or cope with the lifestyle he is bound by. When Sonny sips from the cup, he reminds us of all the suffering he has endured and offers the chance for redemption and peace. This means that Sonny has redeemed himself and has received forgiveness from his brother. It could also be seen as Sonny’s redemption for others, depicted through the narrator’s observations of Sonny’s performance; “Freedom lurked around us, and I understood at last, that he could he help us to be free if we listen.”…

    • 1032 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    The Narrator has no realized his suffering and is ready to be open and acknowledge and interpret what others are saying. The narrator may not be able to comprehend immediately but, he is making an effort to listen to what Sonny is saying. “I had never played the role of the older brother quite so seriously before...I sensed myself in the presence of something I didn’t really know how to handle, didn’t understand.” The narrator used to act as though he was sonny’s dad, he thought he was all knowing and that Sonny’s life and choices where he responsibility. But, know The Narrator has come to the realization that he is is Sonny’s brother, not father, and he should be there to listen to Sonny. The narrator is trying to change his role from a commanding figure to somebody to make Sonny feel less lonely.…

    • 1683 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    He has had no control over his parents dying or his little daughter dying, so he tries to maintain control of Sonny’s life. Since he cannot control Sonny, there is always that conflict between the two. As the narrator sits and watches Sonny, he comes to understand Sonny like he never had before. “. .…

    • 1032 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    The sibling relationship between the narrator and his brother in “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin greatly contributes to the meaning of the work. Throughout the story, the narrator separates himself from his family and his community. He passes as if he was not connected to his ancestors who struggled through slavery to freedom. The narrator takes this freedom for granted, choosing to gain privilege, status, and acceptance. Unlike his brother Sonny, who accepts and embraces his community, the narrator gives up his identity for the safety and wellbeing of his new family.…

    • 153 Words
    • 1 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    141). Sonny knows that his brother has suffered because of him so he wants to show his brother a part of his life that defines who he actually it which is music. His brother excepting the indirect invitation let's Sonny knows that his efforts are being acknowledged and that he’s actually helping to repair their broken relationship and that is how the average sibling quarrel is sometimes solved with one of them going out of their way to make it right. This illustrates that the author is trying to express to the reader that his short story is relatable to most people that have siblings. While Jackson squared deals with his struggles like they are the most mundane things he’s gone though.…

    • 1487 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Sonny did not mean to put his brother through the wire. Sonny brother knew his brother was going to be there for him through his trials and tribulations. His brother was the open ear that he knew he could talk to. Sonny’s brother knew his brother was disappointed in himself. It seems like Sonny just wanted his brother to know that he was the glue that was keeping him together, and he wanted him to know that he was special to…

    • 1135 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    With suffering such a personal loss, he was able to sympathize more with Sonny 's situation and put aside the past: " I think I may have written Sonny the very day that little Grace was buried. I was sitting in the living room in the dark, by myself, and I suddenly thought of Sonny. My trouble made his real." (Baldwin, 305) He was met with a response that was not all too different from his own feelings as Sonny was afraid to contact the narrator just as the narrator was afraid to contact Sonny. This contact was the first stepping stone in the two brothers rebuilding their relationship.…

    • 1632 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Great Essays

    I was dying to hear him tell me he was safe” (840). The narrator’s repetition of “trying” and use of the word “dying” highlights his desperation to protect his brother. However, his passive approach to look after his brother by observing him from afar and by relying on Sonny to reach out to him reinforces the narrator’s failure to connect with Sonny. The narrator’s continuing passivity and minimal communication, revealed in the “long” periods of “silence” (848) in their interactions, ultimately leads Sonny to escape the narrator’s life on an emotional…

    • 1403 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Great Essays

    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. The narrator then adopts the second approach which is just includes being uninvolved and detached from his brother’s life. For a long time he doesn’t talk to Sonny, but this doesn’t work for him either. After the death of his daughter, the narrator writes a letter to his brother while he’s in prison, Baldwin…

    • 1195 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Superior Essays

    As the narrator explains the poor news, he references that Sonny relevance in his life once again which suggests to the brothers’ lack of communication becomes apparent. The narrator’s lack of action to restore their relationship exhibited he did not desire to reconnect. The death of the narrator’s daughter, Grace, was the peak of his decline. Her death had an extremely negative impact upon both the narrator and his wife, Isabel. The narrator is quoted explaining her death: [She] heard Grace fall down in the living room.…

    • 1329 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays