Sonny's Blues Questions and Answers
by James Baldwin

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What is the external conflict in James Baldwin's short story Sonny's Blues?

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It seems that the primary form of conflict in James Baldwin's short story "Sonny's Blues" is man vs. man, but there are others as well.

There are several types of conflict. They are:

  • man vs. man
  • man vs. nature
  • man vs. society
  • man vs. the supernatural (what is beyond the natural realm) and/or God

We see man vs. man in that the narrator of the story has a difficult time with the way Sonny lives his life. As a teacher who sees lives destroyed by drugs all the time, the narrator struggles to accept the choices Sonny (his brother) makes.

He had been picked up, the evening before, in a raid on an apartment downtown, for peddling and using heroin. 

The narrator cannot understand his brother and cannot deal with what he has become, when he was once so different. So he cuts off all communication with Sonny.

We see man vs. man again when the narrator leaves school and meets one of Sonny's old friends that he had never liked. The guy is grown up now, but always hanging around, high, and looking for a handout....

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