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The story reflects the world of music and the musician—particularly the jazz musician—and explores themes of drug addiction and prophecy. Music, particularly the blues, links the brothers and is tied to the African American experience and, ultimately, to a greater spirituality and a deeper humanity. When the narrator really hears Sonny’s blues—and listens to what the music communicates—he understands Sonny in a deeper and more meaningful way. At the same time, he also understands himself and the links to suffering, darkness, and menace that are felt throughout the story. Ultimately, music links the brothers (and the reader) to the human condition and to what may be “the only light in all the darkness.” Baldwin was giving Pentecostal sermons (his father was a clergyman) as a boy in Harlem at age 14. The story’s ending is prophetic and sermon-like, highlighting the message the narrator derives from the power of the music, which is really the power of his people’s history. Isaiah holds the messianic prophecy, and there is a direct link between the message in that prophecy and the music—as if the music is directly tied to the word of God.
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