“Sonny’s Blues” is a fascinating story about drug addiction. The story opens with the narrator’s feeling of ice in his own veins as he reads about Sonny’s arrest for possession of heroin. Sonny’s friend is also an addict and is looking for money from the narrator for his next fix. In the scene before the brothers go to Greenwich Village to hear Sonny play, Sonny says that he needs drugs to be able to stand “it.” Suffering is seen as a cause of drug addiction, though the theme of suffering is also tied to the loss of Grace, the narrator’s daughter. The narrator himself does not fall into drug addiction but certainly comes to a clearer understanding of Sonny and others who are addicted. The story also has strong generational ties. Sonny, as he points out in his letter to the narrator, wishes he could have the faith his mother had. After she tells the story of the father’s brother’s death on that long, dark road in the past, she says, “I praise my Redeemer.” Without faith, there seems to be left only music or drugs. Readers have also suggested that the older brother may be addicted to his feeling of superiority or possibly an addiction to his status as one who is better than his younger brother.
Though, at the very end, the brothers do reconcile and knowing his younger brother's addiction, the older brother still buys him an alcoholic drink at the end of the story, not because he doesn't understand the effects of drugs and alcohol, but he has an awareness of accepting his brother for who he really is.