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Living the Blues with Sonny

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Living the Blues with Sonny

Music is a powerful language which speaks to us, moves us, and fills us with emotion. In Sonny's Blues, the voice of Jazz mediates the relationship between two brothers. As the older brother's appreciation of music grows, he understands better the troubles in Sonny's life and as a result realizes the hardships which also fill his life. As more music enters the brother's life, the effects of Sonny's piano playing moves him closer to his sibling.

The two brother's different perspectives on life keep them apart. The relationship they have as brothers proves that their dissimilar interests cause the separation between them. "I didn't write Sonny or send him anything for a long time." (25) Sonny is a musician and endures the day because of it. Music is a savior to him. In contrast, the other brother, who is the narrator, is an educator and worries about Sonny's convictions to finish his last year in school. The older brother reaches out to Sonny only after the death of his youngest daughter. The narrator's tragedy makes his younger brother's troubles seem real. The older brother attempts to help Sonny through these dark times because he thinks his life is in a stable place, but as music enters his life, he will realize that he and Sonny must help each other.

Before music changed the brother's viewpoint on life, Sonny's announcement of his pursuit to be a Jazz pianist annoys him. "I simply couldn't see why on earth he'd want to spend his time hanging around nightclubs, clowning around on bandstands" (32). He feels that Sonny is much better than the music these "good-time people" (32) played. Sonny was immature and stubborn with his brother, even when he offers to sample Sonny's type of music. Though the narrator wishes the best for his brother, he is skeptical about Sonny's ability to support himself by performing Jazz. His brother's response to the skepticism shows the narrator how serious Sonny is about his music. The narrator enjoys music, but not as the focus of Sonny's life. He describes a tune whistled by a boy as "at once very complicated and very simple_it sounded very cool and moving through all that harsh, bright air, only just holding its own through all those other sounds" (22), but he does not have a good understanding of music and does not love music like Sonny does. The boy reminds him of Sonny at that age, when the denial of their future possibilities fills him with rage which leads him to heroine. At this point, the two brothers are at different levels of appreciation of music, and likewise their bond is weak. They are brothers only by blood and there is no closeness between them.

The narrator first gains musical enlightenment when he watches and listens to the sidewalk revival. He stands at his window, watching and listening to the three sisters and one brother sing their gospel songs. "As the singing filled the air the watching, listening faces underwent a change" (37). The brother also goes through a change, as he sees the music "soothe a poison" (37) within the crowd. He notices an impatient man, fumbling for change as if he were late for a meeting. In contrast, Sonny was relaxed in a slow walk as if to his own inner music. The narrator was once that impatient man who led the

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structured life but had no time to enjoy the music. He is starting to better understand music but still observes the beautiful art from a distance. After Sonny enters the house, he asks his brother to hear him play in the village, which the brother agrees to. The music and the words of the revival soften his heart to Sonny. Sonny realizes this change in his brother and discusses his past heroine addiction. They converse on suffering and the relief of it. Sonny tells his brother how he suffers and that music helps ease the pain. The narrator discovers the darkness that is in his brother's life. He also understands Sonny's music represents the hope that the sun will once again reign over his darkness. At the end of their conservation, the narrator has new insight on his brother's life and music.

At the nightclub Sonny was playing, the narrator realizes that he also has trouble in his life, much like his brother. In this atmosphere, Sonny was the celebrity and from Creole's words, the narrator understood how

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