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The injustice of addiction was and still currently is a multidimensional problem in the United States. In Sonny’s Blues James Baldwin illustrates how much of an issue drugs and violence were in the 1950’s and truly captures the constant struggle between failure and redemption. Sonny’s addiction problem provoked his arrest resulting in a disconnection with his brother. At first, the narrator in Sonny’s Blues responded to this injustice by dissociating himself from his brother but as the story progresses he finally reached out to his brother and slowly started to understand and accept him.

After the deaths of both of the narrator’s parents, it was much harder to live his life predominantly because he felt obligated to step in and act as a father figure for Sonny. Before the narrator’s mother passed away she made him promise to always be there for his brother no matter what,

“‘I want to talk to you about your brother,’ she said, suddenly. ‘If anything happens to me he ain’t going to have nobody to look out for him.’

‘Mama,’ I said, ain’t nothing going to happen to you or Sonny. Sonny’s all right. He’s a good boy and he’s got good sense.’

‘It ain’t a question of his being a good boy,’ Mama said, ‘nor of his having good sense. It ain’t only the bad ones, nor yet the dumb ones that get sucked under.’

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‘She stopped, looking at me.’

‘Your Daddy once had a brother,’ she said

‘She smiled in a way that made me feel she was in pain.’”

His mother always feared that Sonny would end up living among the wrong people and get stuck in an awful environment therefore she told a tragic story regarding the narrator’s father and uncle to keep him reminded that Sonny should be carefully taken care of. She also tells him this story to illustrate that there is no safety from suffering in their world and no matter how hard he tries he can’t fully protect Sonny just like his father couldn’t protect his brother. The narrator invited Sonny to live with him and his wife as a half-heartedly met family obligation. He never had the compassion to take him in, he just felt it was the proper thing to do and this begins to portray how Sonny started to mix with the wrong crowd because of the lack of empathy his older brother showed to him. They had many disagreements about the career path Sonny wanted to take and the hobbies he was pursuing throughout his life which further affected their brotherly relationship, “Then we had a fight, a pretty awful fight, and I didn’t see him for months. By and by I looked him up, where he was living in a furnished room in the Village, and I tried to make it up. But there were lots of other people in the room and Sonny just lay on his bed, and he wouldn’t come downstairs with me, and he treated these other people as though they were his family and I weren’t. So I got mad and then he got mad, and then I told him that he might just as well be dead as live the way he was living. Then he stood up and he told me not to worry about him anymore in life, that he was dead as far as I was concerned.” This tension and dissociation between the narrator and his brother Sonny was a burden for both of them and conveys how the narrator was unable to control Sonny.

The devastating death of the narrator’s young daughter is what brought the two brothers together. After she passed away the narrator took the initiative to write to his brother in jail. He felt so lost after this tragic event he felt as if he could relate to Sonny and decided that he should reach out to him and perhaps they could both get out of their depressive state. The narrator and his wife soon decide that Sonny should come live with them when he gets out of jail, “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.” The suffering that the narrator goes through helps him finally understand the impact of tragedy and can finally connect to Sonny’s situation. 

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