Who is the antagonist in "Sonny's Blues"?

While there is no clear antagonist in "Sonny's Blues," it may be argued that the antagonist of the story is society.

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"Sonny's Blues" is a short story written by American writer James Baldwin , originally published in 1957. It tells the story of a Black teacher from Harlem and his brother Sonny, who's a recovering drug addict and an ex-prisoner. The teacher, who is also the narrator of the...

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"Sonny's Blues" is a short story written by American writer James Baldwin, originally published in 1957. It tells the story of a Black teacher from Harlem and his brother Sonny, who's a recovering drug addict and an ex-prisoner. The teacher, who is also the narrator of the story, often fights with his brother, and that's mostly because he cares for Sonny. However, Sonny is not the antagonist of the story. It can actually be argued that society is the real villain or the real antagonist of the narrative.

The main causes of all problems in Harlem and society in general are discrimination and prejudice, especially racism, as well as poverty. Because of hatred and judgment and unsatisfactory socioeconomic conditions, many African Americans suffer. Often, those suffering turn to drugs and crime, because everything seems hopeless and miserable. Sonny exemplifies this fact, as he tries to find an escape from reality in drugs. The narrator is concerned not only about his brother, but also about his students, because he sees how cruel society can be and how it's capable of turning even the most innocent souls into desperate, miserable individuals and even ruthless monsters.

Sonny finds salvation and solace in music, but not everyone is that lucky. Many continue to struggle in the rough sociopolitical environment, trying to define themselves and hoping to be accepted as they are. Thus, "Sonny's Blues" may not have a traditional antagonist, but it reminds the readers that sometimes, the most evil of villains isn't necessarily a person, but society as a whole.

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