“Sonny’s Blue’s” is a first-person, point of view story by an unknown and nameless narrator, found to be Sonny’s brother. While on the surface it appears to be a story about Sonny and his decisions, the true depth of the story lies in the brother’s narration, which details how his brother’s choices and ultimate struggles affected the narrator. Ultimately, “Sonny’s Blues” is two stories in one. One provides an in-depth view of brotherhood, family, and the relationship between the narrator and his brother, while on the other edge of the sword, it is Sonny’s story.
A proverbial success, the narrator is married with children, and a math teacher, but feels trapped in Harlem—a community that is plagued with crime, poverty and rampant drug abuse. Sonny is a heroin addict. Due to the dichotomy of the two lives, the narrator is unable to understand why Sonny is an addict and why Sonny continue to make the choices that he does. If the narrator can be a success, why can’t Sonny? As the events of the narrator’s life are divulged, this allows the true theme of the story to be revealed: two brothers who have grown apart, creating alienation between the two and resulting in understanding once the narrator is able to remove his doubt concerning his brother. The narrator utilizes Sonny’s struggles within a larger context so as not to agonize about his own family’s problems.
While Sonny is emotionally open and vulnerable, the narrator wavers in his emotions, which swing from concern to doubt, love to hate, anger to happiness. The narrator cuts himself off, emotionally speaking, keeping anything bad at arm’s length. Despite feeling like he should care for his brother; the narrator feels a burden and internally fights himself. Though Sonny is his brother, and the narrator cares for him, the narrator also seems unable to completely admit that his brother has the power to transform beyond the person he is.