What are the similarities between "Cathedral" and "Sonny’s Blues"?

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Although the stories may seem very different, they share an underlying theme. The protagonist in both stories is a man who experiences an epiphany after coming to terms with what he perceives as another man’s problems. In the course of doing so, he understands important truths about abilities and disabilities, along with the importance of creativity and trying not to be judgmental.

In James Baldwin’s story, the protagonist is the brother of Sonny, a man whose addiction to heroin eroded his judgment but, for many years, did not quell his creative spirit. Sonny’s mode of creativity was blues music; his brother must understand the melancholy in the blues before he can understand the pain behind his brother’s addiction.

In “Cathedral,” the protagonist is a man who is resentful of his girlfriend’s male companion. This friend, who is blind, helps the protagonist understand that there is more than one way of seeing. The boyfriend must close his eyes and learn to draw in order to see larger, genuine truths. By doing so, he confronts his own biases against people with disabilities and his own jealousy.

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