Characterize The Narrator In James Baldwin's “sonny's Blues.”

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Characterize the narrator in James Baldwin's “Sonny's Blues.”

Characterize the narrator in James Baldwin's “Sonny's Blues.”

"Sonny's Blues" is narrated in the first-person by an unnamed character, Sonny's brother. An algebra teacher in a high school in Harlem, this narrator is a stable family man with a wife and two sons. He is seven years older than Sonny and has tried, at various times during their lives, to parent him and to protect him. The story opens as the narrator, who has been estranged from Sonny for over a year, is on the subway, reading about a drug raid in which Sonny has been arrested and jailed. As guilt and sorrow wash over him, the narrator is approached by one of Sonny's childhood friends, an addict who blames himself for Sonny's addiction and subsequent arrest. The narrator and the friend discuss what has happened to Sonny, and we see the narrator begin, with anger, to try to understand how and why Sonny has become an addict.

Like with so many other stories, in "Sonny's Blues," the dramatic action mainly concerns the characters' changes or lack of them. The character changes in "Sonny's Blues" are particularly interesting, and subtle, in part because the plot features a character's battle with heroin addiction, and the narrator's efforts to come to grips with this character's addiction and recovery.

The narrator of "Sonny's Blues" is an upstanding man. He's a dutiful son to his parents, and a caring husband and father. He has worked hard to attain the trappings of middle-class success. Up until Sonny's arrest, he has tried not to think about things that bother him. It's logical that the narrator would exhibit this particular trait, as his parents have set a good example for him by not telling him and Sonny about their uncle's murder by a group of drunken white men. Certainly the boys had felt the effects of their father's great sorrow -- the father appears to have been an alcoholic himself, as "he died suddenly, during a drunken weekend" (Norton Introduction to Literature 54)-- but the root of this sorrow had never been spoken in their family.

Because of this generational silence, Sonny grows up virtually alone. Though the narrator and his parents are physically there for most of Sonny's childhood, they never really hear him or listen to him. After Sonny returns from military service, the narrator begins to harbor unspoken suspicions ...
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