Sonny’s Blues Characters

Sonny’s Blues Characters
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What is the extent to which the personal experiences, motives, accomplishments, and failures influence the characterization in this story? In this paper, I articulate my ideas based on the two main characters: Sonny and the narrator.


Sonny’s motivation lies in his ability to express himself through music. The author makes a reference to “black and bouncy music” in the book, perhaps, referring to the nature of blacks as hard and brutal during that time. However, Sonny is not hard and brutal suggesting that the author does not agree with societies’ view of blacks. Their author, therefore, contrasts Sonny’s character against society’s views of the young black men. The author uses the characters to build up the theme of anger and rage, a characteristic trait associated with black men. Another motivation for Sonny is individual identity. He chooses to be a musician against his brother’s will. Sonny is a Charlie Parker fan, and he derives motivation from him. A look into the works of Charlie reveals that he has broken away from the conventional jazz music and built his own form of expression. Though he does not belong to any conventional grouping in the African –American society, he has cut out a niche of his own. The narrator, at the onset of the book, derives comfort from his apparent success. In the context of the black community, he has done the best that he could do. He thrives in this success blocking out any pain on trouble that comes his way. Assimilation is his other motivator. The author wants to blend into society not wanting to stand out, for instance, by getting involved with his brother’s issues. Morality Through the characters’ motivations, the author lays ground to explore the issue of morality. The narrator is a model citizen but his reservations lead him to neglect his feelings of those close to him. Sonny is true to his feelings of distress in regard to his situation, and he lets out his frustration through drugs and music (Bloom 69). My opinion is that the author’s description of morality goes beyond doing what society expects from an individual.


Is a derivative of the value an individual attaches to personal freedom? This is the personal freedom the author is emphasizing making Sonny, in my view, despite his shortcomings as portrayed in the narrative moral.


Sonny’s mother is a classic; her characteristic traits like wisdom and patience are what any African –American mother needs to raise a child in Harlem. Isabel takes up her mother-in-law’s role as the perfect African –American mother. She takes care of everyone, offering comfort from the tribulations of the world. The author notes that she is the only one, aside from music, who makes Sonny happy (Baldwin 72). The narrator and Sonny’s drug-addicted friend though different from the biased public has a lot in common. One instance of resemblance is that like Sonny’s friend the narrator is smart enough not to get “caught”. In this context caught up in the anger and frustrations of their lives, he had a better life in contrast to Sonny. Both the narrator and Sonny’s friends have no names. This is a reflection on the narrator’s account not to get involved with the world to avoid getting hurt and trapped (caught). The differences between the narrator and his brother enhance the theme of futility. It is clear that in the author’s opinion, whether one struggled to escape or was indifferent, they remain trapped. Both characters are indicators of the author’s own struggles. His previous career as a preacher places him in a volatile situation. He faces a conflict between redeeming himself (Sonny) and trying to redeem his fellow African-Americans, as is with the narrator. None of the characters, in my view, portrays having power at the beginning of the book. They all seemed trapped either in metaphoric terms or literal terms. With the unfolding of the events in the book, the author tries to bring out the freedom of the self as the most fundamental freedom (Bloom 68).


The author’s religious perspective influences all aspects of the characters in the book in regard to actions, omissions, and the consequences thereof and how the characters handle them. The motivations of most of the characters are redemption deriving from Baldwin’s religious sentiments (Baldwin 86). Characters are all a reflection of each other, complimenting each other flaws and strengths.

Works Cited Baldwin, James. Sonnys Blues. New York: Klett International, 2000. Print. Bloom, Harold. James Baldwin. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2005. Print.