Literary Character Analysis of the Narrator of Sonny's Blues

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Vanderbilt University
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When discerning about good stories, whether short, long or general, an individual can unravel who the character is of a particular story and his or her roles from reading that particular book. The person can notice the name of the main character, who they are perceived to be, what they do, their traits and attitudes. He or she would notice the sub-characters' integral part that supports that of the main character or that of the whole story. Sonny's Blues written by James Baldwin too has characters who take various roles (Byerman, 367). Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin has two main characters to be exact whom we will be casting their roles. James Baldwin tells his story in Sonny Blues using the first person approach. Through first person approach, it means the one is recounting the entire story is also taking part in it. What so outlandish about James Baldwin's story is that the teller of tales is not titled, or relatively, her or his name is not revealed at all. The unnamed narrator has a small brother whose name is Sonny. The brother and the narrator are both the main characters in James Baldwin's book of Sunny's Blues. Their beliefs, traits, and personalities are all different. They at some point share a small number of similar attitudes, and so attention-grabbing to boot that makes the whole story very fascinating to read. Thus, this study focuses on the literary character analysis of the narrator of Sonny's Blues

The narrator who is nameless is imperative to this story not simply because it is from his standpoint that all of us get to comprehend the narrative, but it is simply because he offers us with an alternative view of the life of Sonny (Murray, 353). It is the unnamed narrator that we come to see how Sonny is immensely addicted to drugs that impact negatively those who are close to him. The narrator also makes the readers comprehend on how severe it might turn out to be for an individual who is not a musician to apprehend what motivates a person who is an artist. Thus, it is paramount to hear the entire story from someone who himself is the narrator of that given story, ever since Sonny himself would be an unreliable narrator. All that said, the unnamed narrator certainly has his weakness of being opinions and biases. The narrator does not have a neutral voice (Sherard, 702).

In many circumstances, the unnamed narrator is seen to be the voice of reason in the entire story. The narrator who is a brother to Sonny tries to ask Sonny to think of what the future holds for him and thus seen to assume the role of a father figure. The role of a father figure the narrator believes comes from the time their parents' passes away, and he remains to sole bread winner provider of the family. Even though he knows so little of his brother character or his passions and preference for music, the narrator has the interest of Sonny at heart. Thus, deep down our minds as readers, we acknowledge that the narrator he is a good and lovely guy (Murray, 353).

The storyteller is one of the main characters of Sonny's Blue. He or she is not some insignificant character whose work is to sit on the sidelines while directing all the events of the story on how they transpire. Even though the unnamed narrator's traits and personalities are not expressly explained, all readers of this book know what is comprised of concerning traits and personalities. Characters and personalities of this narrator are attributable to how he reacts to the particular state of affairs. At the same time, his traits and personality can be witnessed on how behaves towards his brother. The narrator is a cute figure since he is much static. The narrator's character is rubber stamped as static since he always sticks to his attitude of contriving his brother attain a good education, achieve right things in his entire life and always lead a life that is marvelous.

The narrator is an instructor. He teaches the concept of algebra in high school. He teaches these students with a lot of seriousness. His hardworking makes him seem to be victorious in his tutoring. Despite being deemed to be hardworking, serious and a lucky man, he doesn't appear to embrace the concept of happiness (Sherard, 691-705). The narrator though considered to have all the successes; his inner life is, in reality, a miserable one. The misery can be attributable to the loss of parents. He also lost a daughter in most recent aged at two years old. Also what might be depriving him the happiness is the fact that the brother he is taking care of, Sonny does not want to heed to what his elder brother asks of him to do. All these elements are deemed to make the narrator although fruitful and hardworking be deprived the concept of happiness hence making him get immersed to total miserable life.

In spite of the narrator being considered as a lovely and good guy, he is deemed to comprise of some faults. We can point out that he abandons Sonny when his brother requires him most. As far as I fear to accept what Sonny suspects of his brother as only being upset of the path of life Sonny is undertaken which is different from his, I see it being a reality at a certain point (Byerman, 367). I say this since I feel that the narrator is only adhering to guided rules which he follows strictly.

All in all, the narrator comprises of individual elements that fascinate us and others that bug us. Thus, I feel these are the things that make him relatable. He is human, and not perfect. He has his shortcomings of dealings in dealing with Sonny. Hence, he can be termed as a dynamic character since he undergoes a change that is noticeable from the start of the story till the end.


Work cited

Byerman, Keith E. "Words and Music: Narrative Ambiguity in" Sonny's Blues"." Studies in Short Fiction 19.4 (1982): 367.

Murray, Donald C. "James Baldwin's" Sonny's Blues": Complicated and Simple." Studies in Short Fiction 14.4 (1977): 353.

Sherard, Tracey. "Sonny's Bebop: Baldwin's" Blues Text" as Intracultural Critique." African American Review 32.4 (1998): 691-705.


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