In what respects does the relationship between Sonny and his brother resemble that between their uncle and father? In what way does it differ? How do the similarities and differences suggest how...

In what respects does the relationship between Sonny and his brother resemble that between their uncle and father? In what way does it differ? How do the similarities and differences suggest how the world has or has not changed for Sonny's family from one generation to the next? How do the narrator's values and experiences affect his view of Sonny's life, and how does this view change over the course of the story? Why?

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msbrenner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That's a lot for one question!

First of all the relationship between their uncle and father is similar in some superficial ways:

They are brothers

One is a musician

But the more interesting comparison comes in their understanding of each other and of their relationship. The uncle and father experience blatent racism which kills one and leaves the other scarred forever. (Notice the wonderful description of the guitar's sound as it is crushed--escape is no longer an option.) Sonny and our narrator's relationship is more complicated. We can see that Baldwin is referencing the difficulties for African American's by his description of the school the narrator teaches in and their neighborhood, but it isn't as blatent as being run over by a truck, right? So has the world changed? In some ways--in other ways less blatent equals more difficult to deal with and less easy to understand for our narrator. As for the narrator's values, read some of the posts on DuBois and double consciousness. (Click on the tags to the right.) The definition the narrator has of success and Sonny's definition of success is a great example of this double consciousness--Baldwin is asking us, "By whose standards should we be judged?" in the end--with the scotch and milk (you're in college, you know that's no normal drink!!) he leaves the answer ambiguous.