The Impact of Guilt in Sonny’s Blues, a Short Story by James Baldwin

In the story “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin the narrator discusses the difficulties that generally his bro had to face, but also the rest of his family faced when he was a child. He displays this by telling a continuous stream of stories indirectly showing the bigotry and segregation faced where they grew up. Likewise, through this the narrator reveals the absence of human rights offered to individuals around him due to the circumstances.

Bigotry is the dark undercurrent that flows through “Sonny’s Blues”. It is rarely referenced straight but its pull can be felt continually. For example, Baldwin mentions housing jobs that rise out of Harlem like “rocks in the middle of the boiling sea” (Baldwin 80). The outcome of regional and federal segregationist housing policies, the tasks illustrate the effect of racism on a community. However, even in spite of racism being somewhat more prominent in certain areas such as the projects it is acknowledged that bigotry is still a danger anywhere when the narrator discuss how when his mother recommend the household relocate to a much safer location the daddy would always state, “Safe” “Safe, hell! Ain’t no location safe for kids, nor nobody.” (Baldwin 81). Likewise, much of Sonny’s brother’s discouragement for his students can be attributed to the truth that they are similar to Sonny and they live in system that will ruthlessly and constantly victimizes them.

Throughout the story it is apparent that many elements caused the problems Sonny faces during his life. However, it would appear that the main obligation to his supreme failure of landing in prison is on the racist society he stayed in. However, the responsibility ends up weighing on Sonny’s bro not only due to the inherent relational obligations in between a younger and older brother or sister, but due to the request of their mom to examine Sonny in her absence. This demand bring the constant and unclear impact of racism throughout the story to the leading edge, as, when the storyteller’s mom explains how drunken white men killed her brother-in-law and alerts the sibling that something similar could occur to Sonny, revealing much of the suffering in the story described can be attributed to the impacts of bigotry. The mom’s actions are discussed when the sibling speaks of suffering as something given from one generation to the next in the African American neighborhood, making racism offender of Sonny and his brother’s present state of misery.

All of the subliminal insertion of the ever popular theme of bigotry also resolves human rights in the story. Human rights are attended to in the element that a number of those in the narrator’s family and those in the community around them were stripped of them due to racism. For example, the way the bro describes the jobs as being brand-new at first, but later on had actually ended up being rundown despite the inhabitants effort to keep them pristine like the house in a wealthier neighborhood. This somewhat indicates that the homes were bad quality, as despite efforts they could not be kept up to standard. Being given these homes shows an absence of human rights considering that one of the standard human rights is shelter, and if the ‘shelter’ you live in inferior to others it might keep you from moving towards attaining things other than obtaining a more steady shelter. Also, there is that fact that Sonny’s problems are due to the reality he had actually been participated in activities that would assist him get away the jobs. The narrator acknowledges this stating, “The moment Sonny and I started into that house I sensed that I was just bringing him back into the risk he had almost passed away trying to get away.” (Baldwin 81). It implies that their life in the job were so insufferable to the point that Sonny was willing to risk his life doing drugs and other illegal activities to avoid it. This shows how those in power had very little regard for specific people’s lives and put those they lack regard for in positions that they themselves would not wish to remain in.

Therefore, the narrator’s recollections of his previous program his sensation of guilt towards the challenges that have befallen his brother. This sense of guilt is also heavily shown through his sense of foreboding for the future of his students. These disputes are heightened by the continuous existence of racism and foreboding of hardships to befall him and those around him in the future.