In beginning "Sonny's Blues" in the manner he does, Baldwin is able to at once imbibe a sense of how deeply the author is still attached to his brother Sonny.
The author conveys to us that in reading the news article about his brother, this moment will forever color his life—
This would always be at a moment when I was remembering some specific thing Sonny had once said or done.
In other words, the reader learns that the newspaper account is something that Sonny's brother will never be able to escape.
How can one be certain that this moment is so pivotal? The speaker first expresses his fear for Sonny's well-being: "I was scared, scared for Sonny." The speaker describes his responses to the newspaper account: he reads it over and again, distracted from the world around him as he travels to work. He is filled with disbelief. He does not want to accept it but knows he cannot escape the truth before him. He also experiences a tremendous physical response:
A great block of ice got settled in...
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