"Sonny’s Blues" by James Baldwin


In this story, Baldwin draws attention to the limited options available to Blacks in the 1940s. The narrator notes that:

boys like the boys we once were had been found themselves smothering in these houses, [coming] down into the streets for light and air and [finding] themselves encircled by disaster. Some escaped the trap, most didn’t. Those who got out always left somethingof themselves behind, as some animals amputate a leg and leave it in the trap.

The two brothers of this story have managed to escape the smothering environment of Harlem and have succeeded in different ways. The narrator has conformed to white cultural ideals and became a teacher. Sonny, however, embraced his Black roots in the form of jazz music.


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