Summary of "Sonny's Blues"
What is improvisational music? What do we learn about Sonny through his performance?
Questions like: You mean, you want to be a drummer? and What kind of musician do you want to be? He ended up working it out of Sonny. Sonny told him we wanted to play jazz music with what their daddy had called good-time people. 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.
For instance, although the boy lives in the narrator’s neighborhood, he never associates with him. He describes him as ‘cunning boy’, and regrets why he always gave the ‘cunning boy’ fifty cents during his borrowing escapades. However, the boy seems friendly and tells him about Sonny but the narrator already knows. He offers the boy a cigarette hence proves that despite condemning the drug addicts he is also a smoker. Sonny’s friend asks the narrator why the police did not get him, which he sarcastically answers, “I wasn’t there. 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 narrator married Isabel and sent Sonny to live with the Isabel`s parents until he was done with school. Sonny had a desire to become a musician. He does not go to school, and one day, he decides to join the navy. The next time the brothers saw each other was when the war had ended. In the present, Sonny has lived with his brother for weeks, and they connect after Sonny invite his brother to hear him sing. 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.