Sonny's Blues Questions and Answers
by James Baldwin

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What is the importance of the flashbacks in "Sonny's Blues"?

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The flashbacks are an important and effective technique in this story because they enable the narrator to convey to his readers important snippets of Sonny's life that help us to empathize with both him and the narrator.

The flashbacks allow the narrator to focus on the most emotionally powerful parts of his brother's story and his own. Some of these emotionally moving moments include the polio death of Grace, the narrator's young daughter. Formerly, the narrator has been unable to respond to his brother's letters from rehab, where he has been sent to kick his heroin habit. However, when Grace dies, the narrator's own brokenness and sorrow make it possible for him to reach out to his brother's pain. As he remembers the past, the narrator also flashes back to his mother telling him that his father was harsh to Sonny because Sonny reminded him of his own beloved brother who was unjustly killed.

The flashbacks provide us with insights into the pain saturated lives both Sonny and the...

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