What can we as human beings learn from "Sonny's Blues"?

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One theme, among other themes explored in "Sonny's Blues," is the phenomenon of the transcendent, transformative power of the arts.

The narrator is an algebra teacher, a practical and responsible man who works and supports his family. After Sonny's arrest for using and selling heroin, he keeps his brother at a distance, immersed in his own life and problems, especially after he loses his young daughter.

When he and Sonny reconnect, the narrator has a very hard time understanding Sonny's desire to play music. He does not understand the jazz world at this time, and he feels it is beneath Sonny to play in nightclubs and "clown around" while people dance. The narrator does not realize that bebop, the type of jazz that Sonny wants to play, is a revolutionary art form that is beginning to pick up momentum at this time.

It is only after he goes to a jazz club in Greenwich Village and listens to Sonny play that the narrator realizes what this new, expressive form of jazz offers Sonny. The story's last words, "the very cup of trembling," communicates the idea that the music Sonny plays is an epiphany for both brothers.

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We can learn a great deal from "Sonny's Blues." One lesson we learn from "Sonny's Blues" is that experience brings empathy. After learning about his brother's heroin addiction, the narrator does not reach out to help his brother, Sonny. Instead, he waits nearly half a year.

I think I may have written Sonny the very day that little Grace was buried. I was sitting in the living room in the dark, by myself, and I suddenly thought of Sonny. My trouble made his real.

Because the narrator has experienced the pain from the loss of his daughter, he understands the pain that his brother must be going through. Just as the narrator is alone in his room, he realizes that his brother must feel alone, and that is when he decides to reach out to him. We see the narrator's capacity for empathy in an earlier scene when the narrator is speaking to one of Sonny's friends.

"Look. Don't tell me your sad story, if it was up to me, I'd give you one." Then I felt guilty -- guilty, probably, for never having supposed that the poor bastard had a story of his own, much less a sad one.

While the narrator starts off angry at Sonny's friend, he begins to sympathize with him, and by the end of the scene he even gives the friend money.

The experience of reading gives the reader of this story an opportunity to empathize with Sonny and the narrator as well. Through reading we must put ourselves in the characters' shoes and experience their problems. Similarly, at the end of the story, the narrator, while listening to Sonny's band, realizes that the musicians are communicating their suffering through the music and that this music can help soothe those in the audience who are suffering. The suffering that is carried by the music is universal to all humans.

For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness.

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