An outline about "Sonny's Blues" by James BaldwinI need a plot outline about "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" is an enlightening story about the Harlem life experience of two brothers.  With the one brother as narrator, events are not arranged in chronological order.  Instead, there are a number of flashbacks which assist the narrator in his understanding of his brother Sonny.

So, in order to make an outline of plot, the reader must follow the forward progression of action.  To assist you, there is a summary provided by enotes for this story.  (See the site below) You can use this to fill in from the cursory outline provided here: 


  • On his way home the narrator reads about his brother Sonny's having been charged with using heroin.  The narrator,too, feels "trapped in the darkness which roared outside." 
  • An old friend of Sonny's approaches the narrator, asking him to help his brother.  This new trouble of Sonny's makes the narator reflective and reminiscent.


  • The narrator picks up Sonny--"the baby brother I'd never known"--and brings him home, where memories stir and the narrator realizes that he, too, has never left, and he perceives the parody of the housing project.
  • Memories of Sonny, and of his mother bring to life Sonny's resemblance to the dead uncle, a child filled with darkness much like Sonny. The brother ponders this comparison and recalls Sonny's youth.
  • After watching a street revival, the narrator and Sonny grow closer as they talk of the "terrible song" that expresses much experience with sorrow.
  • Sonny reveals that he has take heroin in order "to endure."


  • The narrator agrees to go to the nightclub where Sonny will play.
  • The narrator sits in a corner and watches his brother.
  • Creole, who has a big voice and a laugh coming from him "like the beginning of an earthquake," directs Sonny when to play, and when to let go.
  • The narrator experiences a "moment of truth":  He realizes that music affords Sonny the medium of expression. 


  • The narrator also realizes that to be free, he must listen to the music.
  • The narrator knows that to listen to Sonny provides them both comfort and understanding.
  • Sonny raises the glass on the piano as though it were "the very cup of trembling." 


  • The music ends:  "Then it was over."  The real Christian experience is the narrator's listening to the music of the street preacher and that which Sonny plays with such poignancy, turning the music into something significant.


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