“Sonny’s Blues” is told in the first person, from the perspective of Sonny’s brother, a school teacher in Harlem. The story describes the narrator’s coming to terms with his brother’s drug addiction, as well as with his brother's intense musical ambitions.
Twice in the story there are extended monologues from other characters. The first is when the narrator’s mother speaks in a flashback, recounting a tragic story from her late husband’s earlier life. The second is when Sonny, who, we are told, is usually very quiet and private, opens up to the narrator about his drug addiction, his passion for music, and the meaning of suffering. Of course, both of these monologues are filtered through the narrator’s perception of them, but they do offer another perspective, and ultimately, it is Sonny’s extended monologue that breaks through the narrator’s walls and causes him to also think about suffering, the possibility of redemption, and how to find and appreciate those rare moments of transcendence.