In Sonny's Blues, how are the narrator and Sonny directly and indirectly characterized?
In other words, show an example of how the narrator is both directly and indirectly characterized, and then an example of how Sonny is both is directly and indirectly characterized.
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In "Sonny's Blues," the narrator is directly characterized as having little compassion for drug users. For instance, when Sonny's heroin-using friend comes to the school yard (and the narrator has just read the news that he brother has been arrested), the narrator can barely be civil. When the young man says that if he were smart, he would have shot himself long ago, the narrator responds by saying that he'd happily give him a gun to do it. This is direct characterization of the narrator.
Indirect characterization is seen when he gives the man five dollars when they part ways. As hardened as he is about drug use and how it destroys lives, he is still compassionate enough to give the man money, even though its intended use is obvious.
This hardened shell that the narrator tries to develop shows cracks, also, when his wife wakes from nightmares about their dead daughter. We know he is still a compassionate person when he says that comforting his wife in her agony is like a mortal wound to him.
Sonny is characterized directly as a young man who cannot speak to his brother, perhaps who does not care for what his brother has to say or what he thinks. At one point in their relationship, when the narrator goes to visit Sonny, they are argue. The result of this fight is Sonny's declaration to his brother that as far as the narrator should see it, Sonny is dead to him, and he shows the narrator the door and slams it.
Indirectly characterized, we see Sonny as a suffering soul who does not wish to be cut off from his brother. When they speak finally of Sonny's drug use, the reader is able to understand, as does the narrator, that speaking of his situation is painful to him. The narrator remains silent, somehow knowing this. And Sonny reveals that he cannot explain exactly why he needs the heroin. Directly characterized, we see a man with little hope in his life.
Indirectly characterized, the reader observes Sonny when he plays the blues at the club. It is in this moment, for reader and narrator, that Sonny shows a rare glimpse of the beauty and promise that lives within. His music is mediocre at best when he first starts to play. But when he is encouraged by another member of the group, Sonny comes out of his suffering to a place of inspired artistry: he plays from his soul, and we can see that there live two people within—the tormented drug user and the soulful musician.
If not for the haunting recollection of Sonny's old friend at the beginning of the story who paints a picture of hopelessness for Sonny's recovery, the last scene might well convey a sense of promise for Sonny. Perhaps it only speaks to the tragic nature of promise lost to the siren's call of heroin addiction.
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