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Sonnys Blues or To Build A fire - Essay Example

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The narrator is the older brother who relates the struggles of his younger brother, Sonny, to overcome drug addiction and find his identity and place in the world…
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Sonnys Blues or To Build A fire
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"Sonnys Blues or To Build A fire"

Download file to see previous pages Baldwin effectively uses characterization, conflict and setting to explore the relationship between the narrator and his younger sibling.
The contrasting characters of the narrator and Sonny delineates their relationship. The narrator is an algebra teacher, whose point of view describes his own life and Sonnys. He is a practical family man who is aware of his responsibilities and is content to earn a living and carry on as best as he can. He is willing to accept the status quo of the world. He believes in “will power and how life could be well, beautiful” (Baldwin, 21-1). He is seven years older than Sonny and feels a sense of responsibility towards his younger brother. He promises their mother, “I wont let nothing happen to Sonny” (Baldwin, 11-5). On the other hand, Sonny is the boy with “wonderfully direct brown eyes, and great gentleness and privacy” (Baldwin, 1-3), who is in search of meaning and identity. He is not content to follow the beaten track and wants to make jazz his life. Their contrasting characters leads to conflict in their relationship.
The conflict in the relationship between the two brothers is brought about by two sources: Sonny’s drug use and his choice of jazz as a career. The narrator expects Sonny to complete school and settle down to a safe, respectable livelihood. To the narrator, jazz is “hanging around nightclubs, clowning around on bandstands, while people pushed each other around a dance floor” (Baldwin, 12-8). He sees no future in jazz as a way of earning a living. He cannot understand Sonny’s stand “that its the only thing I want to do” (Baldwin, 13-8). To Sonny, jazz is his life. The narrator also cannot accept Sonny’s drug addiction and finds his brother’s life “weird and disordered” (Baldwin, 16-5). The conflict between them builds up and leads to their estrangement, which is emphasized by the setting of the story.
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