The narrator in this story by James Baldwin is an unknown teacher in Harlem. At the beginning of the text, has just run away from the ghetto and established a stable life. That is despite the negative pressures the young blacks have to deal with within that locality. In the course of living within the neighborhood, he observes the way the African American youth live and hurdles from a society that is racially abusive when at these adolescents are trying to exert their authority and explore their abilities. The narrator tells the story of the relationship with Sony, his younger brother. They have often separated and come back together. After their parents died, he had tried to act like a father to Sonny but failed. There was a time he thought Sonny could not cope with the destructive influences of the life lived in Harlem. They eventually reconciled. This is the time the narrator understood the value of being a Jazz pianist had on Sonny.
The Synopsis of this Great Piece of Writing
The story begins when there is a crisis in the relationship between the two brothers. The narrator finds out in the newspaper that Sonny had been arrested during a drug raid. This is when he discovers that Sonny is a heroin addict. Ina state of disbelief that his gentle brother is into such behavior, the narrator finds it hard to communicate to him directly.
The middle part of this story, there is a flashback. The narrator recalls his last conversation with his mother. He had promised to be there for Sonny regardless of the circumstances. When on leave taking a break from the army, he only had little interaction with Sonny. By then, Sonny was still in school. The mother informs the narrator of the death of his uncle. This is a story she had hidden until that time. His uncle, loved by the father of the narrator, met his death in a hit-and-run incident by drunken whites who in an attempt to frighten their uncle, had miscalculated. The event aroused rage from their father. Sonny always reminded the father of his brother. The narration of the story is partly to tell the narrator that no one is safe from the suffering in the world. Therefore, there was no way the narrator could protect Sonny from the chaos in the world if their father could not protect their uncle. The suffering shows that life is generally chaotic and people try to create more order. As much as suffering is hard to avoid, one can make it more manageable.
Through that talk, the narrator pushes the story forward through to his marriage and how he went back to the army. Sonny announces during the funeral of their mother his intention to become a jazz pianist. Sonny tries to live with the wife of the narrator as he teaches himself piano. Meanwhile, the narrator is in the army, fighting. The arrangement fails. After the war, the brothers break the narrator cannot accept new life Sonny leads. The narrator talks of the suffering he went through with his wife after their daughter died. That suffering made him feel he should write to Sonny who was then at the treatment center. He began to acknowledge how important it is to have someone to talk to as a source of comfort during suffering.
Finally, the narrator and the brother reconcile. The narrator has fears that Sonny may go back and begin abusing heroin again. Sonny sends an invitation to the narrator for a piano-playing session at Greenwich Village club. Sonny takes the opportunity to tender an explanation as to why he resorted to taking heroin. Heroin was his way to blur himself from the suffering around because there was no one to talk to about his troubles.
While at the club, the narrator now fully draws the meaning of what Sonny means is trying to say as he hears him play the piano. Sonny’s music is a real response to the reactions of life. He observes that one who creates music is trying to deal with deeper issues from within. In his view, the brother is trying to recreate the old human story through music. With the first-hand experience of Sonny’s struggles to play the cool music, the narrator acknowledges that the blues are soothing to the soul of humankind. The music offers the narrator and all the other people a way to get the real meaning in the pains they are suffering and find joy regardless of how hard life is. With this renewed perception, the narrator finds it easy to accept the choices made by Sonny, the life he now leads, and the risks the brother has to live with. That is the plot overview of this story.