Sonny's Blues

Redemption in "Sonny's Blues"

James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a tale of suffering. Placed in an environment that is “encircled by disaster” (Baldwin 1615), the narrator constantly attempts to escape from the suffering around him. He avoids all contact with those around him and becomes disconnected from who he truly is. However, it is through his brother, Sonny, that the narrator realizes that running from his troubles and those closest to him is not the answer. Sonny’s ability to channel his suffering through his music portrays Baldwin’s central message, that only by finding meaning in suffering can one can truly live.

Nearly every negative aspect of the narrator’s life seems to come from the environment around him – specifically the evils of racial segregation that plague Harlem. Although the narrator believes to have escaped from his upbringing by getting an education, he also acknowledges that he “left something… behind” (1615). The narrator’s loss can be seen in the monotony of his daily life. He does not believe that his job as a high school teacher makes any impact on the racially biased social system of the day, that his students are “growing up with a rush...

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