This is a straightforward redemption story, centered around the relationship of two brothers. Both brothers change and develop over the course of the story, and there are multiple aspects of this story that could easily be developed into a very strong essay. Because the plot and character development of this story are both so straightforward and obvious, you need to be especially careful that you don’t fall back on cliches in interpreting it. Look for aspects of the story that Baldwin doesn’t put right in the face of the reader.
Here are some questions to consider. Why does the older brother keep trying with Sonny? What evidence do you see that, although Sonny has made some truly stupid decisions, he has some character traits that can lead to success? What could be Baldwin’s purpose in incorporating story elements that refer to religion? Sonny talks about pain and music. What connections does he seem to be making between the two?
POSSBILE ESSAY TOPICS:
– Compare/contrast sibling relationships in “Everyday Use” and “Sonny’s Blues”
– Analyze mindsets/personalities that lead to lives of outward stability and a measure of success (i.e. Mrs. Hopewell in GCP and Sonny’s brother) with those who must rely on others to support them (i.e. Joy-Hulga and Sonny)
– Is Baldwin making any thematic point about drug use/addiction?
– Compare/contrast criminals (Manley Pointer and Sonny)
– Is Baldwin using jazz music as a cliche? Why does he make Sonny a musician?
Just pick one of these topics to write about if you do not mind. No outside sources please. I will post the link for the story below.