Analysis Of James Baldwin 's ' Sonny 's Blues '

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James Baldwin presents an emotional journey through Harlem in the 1950’s with his short story, “Sonny’s Blues.” From the beginning, the story is in medias res when the unnamed narrator is informed of bad news concerning his younger, troubled brother, Sonny. Throughout the story there is an ocean of emotions witnessed between these two brothers as they battle hardships from their past and present time. The setting plays an important role in “Sonny’s Blues” to an extent where it is practically a character in the story. The city of Harlem is where their troubles begin, the place they both try to escape. Through the setting of “Sonny’s Blues,” and the example of the relationship between the narrator and his younger brother, Sonny, James Baldwin presents how a dark past full of suffering can influence present lives and relationships.
The sequence of events is not in chronological order since the narrator goes from the present in medias res, to past, and back to present in order to illustrate the suffering experienced by both brothers, the estranged relationship between them, and to emphasize the impact the past has on the present. Beginning in medias res, Sonny is sentenced to prison for drug abuse. The narrator and Sonny are not close because he has not been listening to understand Sonny until he suffers the loss of his daughter and has some of his own suffering to deal with. He expresses his grief by saying, “I was sitting in the living room in the dark, by myself, and I
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