The Changes in the Narrators View of Sonny Essay

This essay has a total of 1203 words and 6 pages.


The Changes in the Narrators View of Sonny






Can one know another's thoughts? Through dialogue, actions, and events, the
thoughts and views of a man of whom we know not even a name are shown. The man
is the narrator of "Sonny's Blues" and his thoughts we are shown are those
directed towards his brother. Over the course of the story, there are three
major stages or phases that the narrator goes through, in which his thoughts
about his brother change. We see that those stages of thought vary greatly over
the narrator's life, from confusion about his brother to understanding. Each
phase brings different views of his own responsibility toward his brother, his
brother's manhood, and his brother's sense of reality.

Through out the story, three of the narrator's view are changed, the first of
which is Sonny's manhood. During the first phase, early in the story, the
narrator showed that he viewed Sonny as a child. "I was beginning to realize
that I'd never seen him so upset before... [and decided this was] one of those
things kids go through and that I shouldn't make it seem important."(49) This
quote is an example of how the narrator viewed his brother. He not only thought
Sonny acted as a kid, but was also too young to be planning a future or career.
"He still wasn't a man yet, he was still a child, and they had to watch out for
him in all kinds of ways."(51) The narrator decided that he would plan Sonny's
future and when Sonny rebelled, the narrator saw it as yet another childish
action.

Another way in which the narrator's overall view changed was his view on whether
Sonny's idea of reality was sound. Still in the first phase, the narrator often
presents his view of reality and when Sonny rejects it, the narrator feels Sonny
is being unreasonable. For instance, "'Well Sonny,' I said, gently, "you know
people can't always do exactly what they want to do-' 'No I don't think that,'
said Sonny, surprising me."(49) Actually, Sonny understood life much more
clearly than the narrator, but the narrator did not realize that then. He
thought that perhaps Sonny was just too young or too high on drugs to understand
what life was about.

Finally, the third view changed was the narrator's responsibility towards Sonny.
Before the brothers' mother died, the narrator promised he would take it upon
himself to take care of Sonny should the mother die. The narrator viewed Sonny
as a responsibility he had. Because of the promise made to his mother, he felt
he owed it to his mother to take care of Sonny. Therefore, whenever he did
something for Sonny it was because his mother had wanted him to, not because he
cared about Sonny. As soon as taking care of Sonny stopped working with his
schedule, he sent him to his mother-in-law's house. During the story, however, a
long separation brought the narrator into his second stage of thinking, and
changed his views of Sonny. The narrator recognized that Sonny wasn't just a kid
any more. Sonny had been in the Navy and had been living on his own for some
time. Yet he didn't see him as a man either. "He was a man by then, of course,
but I wasn't willing to see it."(52) He saw Sonny as a teenager of sorts. Sonny
dressed strangely, became family with strange friends, and listened to still
stranger music." In the narrator's eyes, Sonny foolishly thought he knew
everything. Even though the narrator's views on Sonny's manhood changed, during
the second stage his feelings about Sonny's sense of reality didn't. When he saw
Sonny after Sonny's stay in the Navy, the narrator still viewed Sonny as if he
were on drugs. "He carried himself, loose and dreamlike all the time, ...and his
music seemed to be merely an excuse for the life he led. It sounded just that
weird and disordered."(52) He thought that Sonny had been driven even farther
from reality than before. He thought that Sonny's view of reality was so
distorted that he might as well have been dead. Unlike his views on Sonny's
sanity, when his views on Sonny's manhood changed so he thought, did his
responsibility toward Sonny. He began fighting regularly with Sonny, "Then
[Sonny] stood up and he told me not to worry about him anymore in life, that as
he was dead as far as I was concerned."(52) During this time in which the
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