Summary of "Sonny's Blues"
What is improvisational music? What do we learn about Sonny through his performance?
Sonny had made it clear that he was serious about a career in music, whether or not his brother was going to accept his decision. His brother had said it was time for get serious about his future and what he was going to do for a living. Sonny had finally said he had wanted to join the Army or the Navy, this way, he could get out of Harlem and still have the G.I. bill waiting for him when he came out. Soon after, Sonny’s brother convinced him to start going back to school. Sonny agreed and also started playing the piano. Day and night, in between meals. He became better each day and even bought records that allowed him to practice improvisation with the music. Come to find out, Sonny had stopped going to school all together. Every letter that had come, Sonny had gotten rid of.
I stay away from people” (Baldwin 553). Furthermore, the boy asks the narrator what is his next step about his brother’s condition; but he rudely says nothing; if anything the narrator has not seen Sonny for more than a year. The narrator does not even know his brother’s residence before imprisonment. Two forms of alienation come out at this point; first, the narrator is alienated from himself; he does not understand himself. He smokes yet he condemns addicts as if there were ‘good’ and ‘bad’ addicts. Secondly, he confesses that he ‘stays away from people’ and this remark is enough to suffice hoe deep the narrator is alienated from his surroundings; he doe not even know Sonny’s friend by name yet they live in the same neighborhood. Therefore as expected, he does not plan to visit his brother in prison.
The two go to a night club where Sonny is loved and plays with the band. The narrator is in tears during the song thinking about suffering. The band takes a pause, and the narrator buys a drink for the bartender. Sonny looks at his brother, and the band resumes playing.
Baldwin, James. Going to Meet the Man. United States: Dial press, 1965.