Sibling Rivalry as the Prevalent Theme in Sonnys Blues and The Rich Brother - Research Paper Example

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This essay discusses Sibling rivalry as the prevalent theme in ‘Sonny’s Blues’ and ‘The Rich Brother’. In both stories, one brother enjoys a conventionally successful and socially respectable lifestyle while the other brother is poor, single and engages in socially undesirable activities…
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Sibling Rivalry as the Prevalent Theme in Sonnys Blues and The Rich Brother
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Download file to see previous pages In ‘The Rich Brother’ we again see a pair of brothers in extremely different life situations. One is successful in terms of wealth and material goods, while the other is much poorer but enjoys a much more spiritual and internally happy attitude. Both sets of brothers reflect the biblical story of Cain and Abel, in which sibling rivalry manifests as two brothers display entirely opposing personal characteristics and beliefs. The unnamed narrator of ‘Sonny’s Blues’ engages in a rivalry with his brother throughout the story, albeit in a slightly unconventional way. While each is not trying to out-do the other in terms of impressing other people or gaining acclaim of any kind as is the case in most conventional sibling rivalries, it is their opposing lifestyles and attitudes which are fighting against each other as the narrator cannot accept his brothers actions and constantly attempts to coax him into a more traditional and ‘normal’ lifestyle like his own. Though the narrator has largely ignored his troubled younger brother for many years when he does reach out to him while in jail, their lack of communication is evident as the narrator realizes that he does not really know his brother at all. At the beginning of the story, the narrator sees news of his brother’s trouble in the newspaper and it is only because of this report that “Sonny became real to [him] again” (Baldwin page no). The narrator enjoys a conventional and respectable lifestyle – he is married with a family, maintains a full-time teaching job and is a respected member of the community in which he grew up. In stark contrast with this, the younger brother Sonny has engaged in drug use since a very young age and has been in trouble with the law consistently. Feeling extremely trapped in his life by facing obstacles typical of that of a black man in Harlem during the 1960s, Sonny represents the problems faced by that community at that particular time (Reilly 56). The narrator is given the responsibility of watching out for his young brother by his mother, which he neglects to do for years as his brother’s choices are so incompatible with his own. In a way, Sonny needs to be saved and it is up to the narrator to do this, even if he is unwilling to do so and this leads them to arguments and fights along the way. When the narrator speaks to a friend of his brother, it is only then that he realizes how badly his brother needs his help. The drug-addled friend represents what Sonny will become if left to his own devices and without support, which gives the narrator the impetus he needs to resolve to make an effort to understand Sonny and to help him improve his life. When he first sees Sonny after his stint in jail, he initially does not recognise him “Yet, when he smiled, when we shook hands, the baby brother I’d never known looked out from the depths of his private life, like an animal waiting to be coaxed into the light” (Baldwin page no). It is not until the very end of the story when he and Sonny go to a jazz club that the narrator first truly sees who Sonny actually is. Music is his passion and when he plays in front of the narrator, his passion, heartache, struggle, and emotions all become beautifully manifest through the music. This leads the narrator to finally understand that Sonny has the potential to change, that he has a heart and that there is hope for him in terms of bettering his life. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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