Harlem’s darkness and hardships
Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a story of the two brothers living in Harlem. Harlem is the place where the two brothers experienced the darkness of the society. This darkness points out racism and drug abuse as one of the major problems experiencing by many African-American in Harlem. Even though racism was felt by the two brothers and drug abuse hunted Sonny, one of the two brothers, they still managed to adopt and survive through the help of each other. At the beginning of the story, the older brother is on his way to work as a schoolteacher.
As he travels down the road, he also reads the newspaper and found out that his brother was caught dealing with heroine. Even before, Sonny was suspected by his older brother of using illegal drugs but the older brother does nothing. Before the drug related incident happens, the older brother who is also the narrator of the story always talks about Sonny as being a good brother. He says “When Sonny was young, his face was bright and open”. Sonny’s brother worries about the involvement of Sonny in illegal drugs.
Sonny is being dependent on drugs and uses it as a way to escape his problems. This problem makes his brother think of the things he did wrong to make Sonny involved in drug addiction. As a result of that, the brother misinterprets all the acts Sonny is doing. He does not listen to Sonny even if it has to be about the explanation and reasons of why Sonny engaged to drug related activities. Sonny finds himself neglected by his brother. This makes him think that no one could help him but his own self. Realizing this, he diverts his attention to music.
This involvement to music makes him finds the relief he is searching for. With the music playing, Sonny is able to escape the problems he is encountering. The improvement of Sonny is hardly noticed by his brother. At first, his involvement to music disappoints his brother not until his brother realizes the changes music has done to Sonny. His brother accepts the truth and realizes that music has done a good job to Sonny’s development. It all happened in the part of the story where his brother is listening to Sonny as he plays the piano.
As Sonny plays the piano, his brother feels that Sonny need his guidance and love. The unconditional love by the brother to Sonny was depicted in the story. Listening to the Jazz music played by Sonny, the attitude of the brother towards life, himself and Sonny changes. The estrangement of the two brothers hurt them both. Sonny’s dedication to music and his determination to stay away from any form of illegal drugs move the older brother to change. The love and passion of both brothers are shown in the story.
Their fight against the darkness in Harlem made them realize that to win is to accept the weakness of each one of them and to be able to survive is to help each other. As a final point, to be able to survive in a society where you are not the main character, you must learn to adapt and to help others that are also adapting. The challenges of Black American brothers in the time of racism and its fight against illegal drugs can be solve if trust, acceptance and love is within the family ties.