Academic Master


Use of Contrast in Sonny’s Blues

The story begins with the narrator who is a teacher, walking on the subway to school. The narrator continues to step, but he fears of what will happen to his brother. Sonny, the narrator his brother, was sent to jail after being found guilty of selling heroin drug (Tracy 100 – 164).

Throughout the day in school, he thinks about his brother and wonders for his students who he believes they are also drug addicts and sympathizes for them. “Sonny’s Blues “is a story written by James Baldwin in Harlem where there the narrator and his brother Sonny, were born and raised by their parents. The story employs the style of contrast all through it chronologically. In the following paragraphs, I am going to discuss how difference is used in different scenes beginning with the Sunday afternoon with old folks, the three saved sisters and a brother, finally the disparity that exists between Creole, Sonny and the narrator (Tracy 100 – 164).

To begin on the Sunday afternoon with the Old Folks, the narrator his mother talks reveals that his father had a brother (Tracy 100 – 164). All the years they have lived the narrator was not aware of their uncle. His father wanted to tell them, but her mother stopped him since she had great compassion for her children. Her mother tells him that his uncle got killed. She says that though her uncle was little troubled, he had no harm to anybody. They would go his father and him to Saturday nightclubs so that they refresh their minds. On one a particular Saturday night as his father and uncle were coming home from their nightclub something unusual happened. A car full of white men who were drunk ran over your uncle down a hill valley. The narrator his mother recalls that his mother ran to rescue his brother, but it was too late. What he saw was a pool of blood and his uncle lying down helplessly. Her mother says that their father was angered so much and tells him that his father had never seen anything as dark as that night road after the car’s lights had vanished away.

The story the narrator is mother tells him is full of contrast. The night and lights of the car symbolize racism that existed among the whites in Harlem. The white men ran over his uncle but never bothered to know what had happened. This violent killing of his uncle causes a lot of distress to his father for a long time until he dies. Her mother who also sees her son Sonny, also having the same character as the narrator his uncle fears that something of the same might happen to him. For this reason, her mother tells the narrator to take care of his brother so that he doesn’t get to the same situation.

Secondly, the narrator fails to take care of his brother as his mother told him. As a result of failing to conduct his duty correctly, he leaves him to lure into drugs after which he ends up in prison. After all this dramatic situation the narrator fails to go to jail to visit his brother to consult him until the death of his daughter, Grace is when he pens down to inform him of her death. The end of the daughter’s narrator causes a lot of suffering and pain to him which he cannot control. After this incidence is when he writes to his brother when remembers how he might be suffering in jail and a series of trials he is encountering.

Despite all this suffering and pain comes a comfort between the two brothers. The three sisters and a brother who sung and preached made the two brothers come together. Sonny suffered a lot, but all these had meaningful. His endurance and pain lead to his brother to salvation. Sonny his brother always accused him that he was wrong and even at one particular point they fought (Flandreau 613-615).

Salvation is one of the most significant motifs in “Sonny’s blues.” Had it not been salvation the two rivalry brother would not have reconciled. Through Sonny’s music that he was against and didn’t its importance he got saved (Haddad 16-49). The narrator his salvation is both Christianity and as well as secular in nature.

The final episode is about Creole, Sonny, and the narrator. In this type of scene, another character Creole comes in. Creole was the team bandleader where Sonny was a pianist. At the nightclub, Sonny introduces Creole to his brother. Creole is a very gentle and humble man who appreciates the narrator for making to come and witness his brother live on stage. He acknowledges to him that they are very grateful as a family to have a highly talented musician (Haddad 16-49). The writer uses Creole as a character to depict the Creole culture which brings together all kinds of people with all mixed heritage that is associated mostly with Louisiana.

After performing the first song, Creole chooses another song called “Am I Blue.” The writer chooses the song “Am I Blue” since Sonny had a great love for blues. The blue songs are very gentle and beautiful with a particular message to display to the audience in a well-organized manner. Choosing this kind of song by the James Baldwin looks very much unusual, but it was to be a form of reconciliation and salvation between the two estranged brothers (Flandreau 613-615).

Also, the writer is title story “Sonny’s Blues” is ironic and sounds like the blues. The story starts with a lost and wondering brother who ends up in prison for selling heroin. It then focuses on how the narrator recalls their childhood experience with his brother. Finally, it comes to an end by the two African American brothers’ reunion (Tracy 100 – 164).

In conclusion, from the three scenes or episodes, the writer has used contrast to imply that both the narrator and his brother Sonny have benefited from painful experiences. The death of the narrator his daughter, Grace due to polio made him be in the situation that his brother is suffering in prison (Haddad 16-49). From this challenging experience by the narrator, he can reunite with his brother and finally gets saved. The death of narrator’s uncle is suffering to family members. The narrator’s uncle died due to racism when the white man ran over him by their car and promises her mother to take care of his brother (Tracy 100 – 164).

Sonny describes that for the singer to sing so beautifully and attract many people, she might have suffered a lot. Therefore bearing acts as a genuine a great compassion and humanity that one gives to others (Haddad 16-49), creating means of connection for the same people who might go through stressful situations. Through this difficulties the two brothers were able to come together through the great desire that Sonny had for music that he struggled to reach where he was, bringing redemption to his brother (Flandreau 613-615).

Finally the “Sonny’s Blues” has great political significance. The writer urges all people to embrace their heritage and culture. The narrator his firm intention to leave his lifestyle and adopt the new didn’t help him to stop his suffering and therefore the only way he can get salvation until he reunites with his family and culture.


  1. Tracy, Steven C. “Sonny In The Dark: Jazzing The Blues Spirit And The Gospel Truth In James Baldwin’S “Sonny’S Blues.” James Baldwin Review 1 (2015): 100 – 164. Web.
  2. Haddad, Ghassan George. “Feeling The Blues, Seeing The Blues.” Journal of Neurology & Stroke 4.2 (2016): 16-49. Web.
  3. Flandreau, Suzanne. “African-American Blues, Rhythm And Blues, Gospel And Zydeco On Film And Video, 1926-1977, And: Encyclopedia Of Rhythm &Amp; Blues And Doo-Wop Vocal Groups (Review).” Notes 57.3 (2001): 613-615. Web.
  4. Making Arguments about Literature. Boston, Massachusetts: Bedford/St. Martins. 2005: 450 – 553



Calculate Your Order

Standard price





Pop-up Message