Suffering In Sonny's Blues By James Baldwin

936 Words 4 Pages
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
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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

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