“Sonny’s Blues and Sticks” by James Baldwin
Sonny’s Blues and Sticks are interesting stories that move a lot of audiences across the world. Although different authors wrote them at different times, their narrations have numerous similarities though there are also evident differences. Sonny’s Blues is a personal narration that describes the challenges experienced in a family. The narrator, however, tries to rectify the previous mistakes of his parents by trying to provide a better future for his siblings. to provide for the family. Also, in the Sticks, numerous issues affect the families illustrated. Although it is a short story, it highlights numerous family problems. In other words, Sonny’s Blues and Sticks demonstrates different struggles in various families. The two stories exhibit numerous similarities, although there are also some distinctions.
Sonny’s Blues and Sticks portrays the burden of intergenerational family legacy even though they are distinct. In Sonny’s Blues, the family mainly deals with the personal grief triggered by extreme socio-economic pressures. The narrator struggles with her younger daughter’s Grace death (Johansson 19). As a result, of mourning her daughter, he is prompted to communicate to his brother in prison through a letter for the first time. The narrator’s mother also confesses to him that his father developed a bad spirit after watching his brother get killed by a moving car full of white passengers, which altered his life forever. Their mother, the only unifying factor in their family, also died. The demonstration of grief is high in the story as close family members such as parents and children die.
In the ‘Sticks,’ however, the illustrated struggles of the family are mainly intrinsic although, death is also seen when Da and mother die. This implies that the abuses illustrated in the story were personally investigated and not triggered by any other external factors, as seen in the case of Sonny. The main character in Sticks, Dad, is introduced by his eldest son as an imperfect father. Dad is mean and stingy towards his children and only finds happiness during holidays when he allows them to decorate the pole.
The father is obsessed with a metal pole, and this clearly illustrates a dysfunctional family. He is mean to the family, especially his children, affecting his relationship with the close family and community members. He only values his happiness and only cares about his personal feelings. However, his actions are never triggered by any other external factor; they are internal but affect the family eternally.
There are also similarities between the abusers in the two stories. In Sonny’s Blues, the father is the main abuser in the story, and his actions are directly subjected to his kids. The narrator illustrates that his father had a bad spirit, and they could engage in a physical fight with Sonny, who also had similar traits (Johansson 19). Moreover, his close family members were often scared of Dad because of his actions. In the Sticks, the Dad is also the main abuser in the story. Although his actions are however indirect, they harm his family members. The father is mean and stingy towards their children, which negatively affects the family (Saunders 2). Although Dad believes that he is preparing his children for a better future, he instils negative qualities.
Additionally, there are similarities in how the traits are passed from one generation to another. In Sonny’s Blues, the father developed a negative attitude towards life and family members when his young brother died because of hit and run accident. However, Dad passed the traits to his children, especially Sonny, who has vehemently expressed a negative attitude towards his family members, especially his brother, the narrator, whom he tells to consider him dead after a lengthy argument. Similarly, the narrator begins to realize that selfishness and negative behaviours have been instilled in him and his siblings without even realizing it (Saunders 3). As they grow old, they begin to exhibit bad characters that they start to question; hence he concludes that they have been impacted with the negative traits from their parents
Finally, humanity takes control of family relations despite the differences and the past negative experiences experienced. In Sonny’s Blues, Sonny invites his brother to a concert even after declaring to the narrator to consider him dead. Additionally, the narrator begins to develop human feelings as he watches his brother struggle to play the instruments. As a result, he begins to understand his brother. Also, in the Sticks, the father begins to develop human feelings after the death of her wife (Saunders 3). He starts to show love to his family members and apologizes for his mean action in the two stories. Therefore, the humanity aspect exhibited outweighs all the previous negative actions demonstrated.
In conclusion, Sonny’s Blues and the Sticks have numerous similarities, although differences are also exhibited. The stories are similar on abusers, the traits passed from one generation to another, and the aspect of humanity exhibited. However, they differ on what causes the dysfunction in the stories. In Sonny’s Blues, external factors are highly demonstrated as the main causes of the dysfunction in a family. However, in the Sticks, intrinsic actions are illustrated as the main causes. Therefore, the stories compare in different ways, although they were composed by different people at a particular time.
Johansson, Marie Seljehaug. An Investigation of Empathy in James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues.” MS thesis. UiT Norges arktiske universitet, 2019.
Saunders, George. Sticks’. n.d. Web.