Sonny's Blues Questions and Answers
by James Baldwin

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In "Sonny's Blues," what is the climax for this story?

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The climax of "Sonny's Blues" occurs after Sonny returns to Harlem to live in Greenwich Village, and they have a heated argument.

    James Baldwin, who composed songs at one time for Ray Charles and was close friends with trumpeter Miles Davis and others, gives to his "Sonny's Blues" much musicality. Because this story is much like a blues song that has a recurring melody, the progression of the plot often returns to a motif that is repeated throughout the narrative. It is in one of these recurring motifs that the climax occurs.

    The middle of the story is composed of the narrator's recounting of his past experiences with Sonny. They argued continually, and the narrator realizes that while he is at the piano, "Sonny was...playing for his life" because he was wrapped up in "some vision of his own." But, the music bothers the narrator's wife Isabel and her old father, so Sonny stops playing until he feels he must leave.

Climax (in the past):

    After having both been in the service, the brothers return to Harlem, and they have a serious argument and Sonny again leaves. The brother finds him living in Greenwich Village and tries to ameliorate things; however, Sonny acts as though his friends there are of more significance than his brother, so the narrator starts to leave. Sonny tells the brother to just consider him as dead; the brother hears the door slam behind him and the friends laughing. But as he walks away he whistles to himself the lyrics, "You going to need me, baby, one of these cold, rainy days." 

Back to the present:

    Then, after Sonny gets out of jail and stays with his brother, the narrator observes Sonny across the street from his house, listening to some street preachers singing. The narrator observes of the Harlem listeners,

...the music seemed to soothe a poison out of them; and time seemed, nearly, to fall away from the sullen, belligerent, battered faces, as though they were fleeing back to their first condition, while dreaming of their last.

    Then he sees Sonny, "standing on the edge of the crowd." This moment is truly symbolic of what...

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