Why the narrator in “Sonny’s Blues” remains unnamed

  1. This story is written in the first person from the perspective of the narrator who remains unnamed.

Why do you think that the narrator in “Sonny’s Blues” remains unnamed?

  1. What do one of the characters or objects symbolize? Choose one or two and discuss what the images symbolizes (don’t forget issues of race).

3.What do you think is one of the main themes of “Sonny’s Blues?” Try to explain the theme using quotes and criticism.
Baldwin wrote this story in 1957, around the time of the Harlem Renaissance and prior to the gains made during the Civil Rights Movement. American is segregated and supposedly “separate but equal” accommodations are in effect. Baldwin uses music to show the brothers’ battle for self-expression and a voice through musical scenes and symbols.

More directions on the questions:

  1. This story is written in the first person from the perspective of the narrator who remains unnamed.

In considering why the narrator in “Sonny’s Blues” remains unnamed, notice the tone of the narrative voice. He feels anonymous and undervalued for working his whole life as an upstanding citizen. His down and out brother gets more attention. We can tell that he does not always listen to his brother. Choose a passage in the story where the narrator is listening (or not) and explain its significance in terms of the narrator’s own self-expression. Why does the narrator shut his brother and others out but then finally listen to their voice? What does this have to do with his own self-confidence and voice? How does this relate to larger themes of prejudice, persecution, and finding a voice?

  1. Perhaps the simplest way to identify a symbol is to say that a symbol represents itself and something else at the same time. A symbol is a person, object, or event that suggests more than its literal meaning.

What do one of the characters or objects symbolize? Choose one or two and discuss how they are symbolic.
The smashed guitar
The narrator’s deceased child’s name: Grace
The female street singer whose voice sounds like pain
The drink of Scotch and milk that the narrator buys for Sonny on the piano

  1. The theme of a story is its central meaning or dominant idea. It is the unifying point around which plot, character, setting point of view, symbols, etc., are organized. The theme is not the subject; it makes its own statement about the subject and expresses some view of life.
    When considering the main themes of “Sonny’s Blues” try to express the effects of racism on having a voice for both brothers. What keeps them both from being heard? Use passages from the text to draw out main themes in the story.

Sample Solution

ACED ESSAYS