In "Sonny's Blues," do the narrator and Sonny have the "double-conciousness" that DuBois describes?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On Double Consciousness
by W. E. B. DuBois

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others,
of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.
One ever feels his twoness,--an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,--this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.

The suffering that Sonny and his brother have in "Sonny's Blues" is described in part as being outcast. This is amplified by the flashback to their childhood during which, on a typical Sunday evening, the darkening skies throw a darkening veil over the faces of the adults whom they love, who are sitting on the porch.

This is a metaphor for the double-consciousness that DuBois describes: "born with a veil"; "looking at one's self through the eyes of others." So, yes, the brothers and their families are depicted as having the double-consciousness DuBois revealed to the world. The elder brother, the narrator, goes a long way to "conquer the two warring sides" and "attain self-conscious manhood," but he still encounters limits and visions of himself "through the eyes of others."