Analysis of Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin and The Things They Carried by Tim Obrien
The story unfolds with the narrator being told about his younger brother Sonny’s arrest on charges of possession and sale of heroin. This news unnerves him, but being the conscientious man that he is, he continues on his way to school, where he teaches Algebra. The narrator does not go to the prison to meet Sonny till he himself experiences pain in the form of death of his own girl Grace. This point is made clear when he states, My trouble, made his real (62). He brings Sonny back to his home, all the time worried that Sonny will return to his drug habit.
From here on, the narrative flashes back to their childhood and we get a glimpse into the sorry lives of the brothers, whose childhood was marred by their father’s drinking habit and his ultimate fall into the hands of this evil. The narrator remembers the promise he had made at his mother’s death-bed when he promised her that he would be his brother’s keeper. This point is clearly seen through this pattern of the love-hate relationship he has for his brother. You got to hold onto your brother… and don’t let him fall, no matter what it looks like is happening to him and no matter how evil you get with him.
When leaving for the war front (probably the Korean War) he left Sonny at his fiancée Isabel’s house, where the piano became his refuge from the cruelty of the outside world. Sonny ultimately turned to music, but in addition to the more dangerous habit of drugs just to assuage his loneliness and this feeling is expressed well when he tells his brother: It’s terrible sometimes, inside, that’s what’s the trouble. You walk these streets, black and funky and cold and there’s not really a living ass to talk to….