Sonny's Blues Questions and Answers
by James Baldwin

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"Sonny's Blues" begins in media res. What does Baldwin achieve by beginning the story as he does? 

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In medias res is a Latin phrase meaning “into the middle of things.” This is an important literary tactic employed by many writers. In using in medias res, writers bypass the exposition and background details and opt to fill the reader in on these elements later, often through nonlinear narrative tactics like flashbacks.

This method allows the reader to feel like they are dropped right into the middle of the plot. The reader must simultaneously figure out the preceding plot points while engaging with the current events of the plot.

"Sonny's Blues" opens with the narrator learning that Sonny was caught in a heroin bust.

This method is successful in "Sonny's Blues" because it puts the central conflict of the narrative at the forefront of the reader's mind. Sonny’s addiction and his escape through music is the main theme of the narrative; however, the reader does not learn that the narrator is Sonny’s older brother until later, which would change how the reader consumes this opening...

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