Sonny's Blues Questions and Answers
by James Baldwin

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Is "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin about redemption or is it about escapism?

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A narrative of human suffering's role in both the African American experience and the human condition, "Sonny's Blues" is, indeed, both about escapism and redemption. James Baldwin tells the story of two brothers who come to know each other through the commonality of their dark environment of the "killing streets" of Harlem which they try to escape in their individual ways, and their personal suffering and redemption.

For the narrator, the avenue of escape is to become educated and be a teacher; however, he now lives in a housing project, "a parody of the good, clean, faceless life" because he still dwells in Harlem.  Sonny tries to escape through his music and heroin and is caught. As the narrator observes of the street singers, "the music seemed to soothe a poison out of them" and it makes "something real" for Sonny. Yet, he is not redeemed by it because he cannot share it, much like his brother who,...

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