A Child’s Overture: Suffering in Sonny’s Blues

Humans are made of the tangible; flesh and blood, muscles and bones, cells and nerves. The survival of man can be dissected into the purely scientific, the emotionless, the artless. The value of the anatomical can clearly not be understated, as such is the basest foundation of existence. However, when unaccompanied by that which offers grace and solace, joy and purpose, and, above all else, love and understanding, this foundation grants only that: existence. A limp, dispassionate meandering through life at it’s most stripped bare is a weak prospect, and yet it is the only one facing the character of Sonny in James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues, should he follow in the wake of his older brother.

While there are those who condemn Sonny’s drug use as an exemplification of pathetic weakness, it is much more than that; it is the overture of a child in the dark, grasping at a flicker of light which he knows to be false, but he grasps at anyway because he so desperately needs something to clutch in his otherwise empty fist. Sonny is not the same as his older brother; his soul is not the same. Sonny has an artist’s soul, an artist’s suffering. Baldwin delineates Sonny as a character who does not have an alternative to drugs, as a tragic hero with an artist’s soul, by means of Sonny’s suffering and his home.

Throughout Sonny’s Blues, Baldwin illustrates the notion of suffering as hovering inescapably above all of his characters; each one suffers in some way – from grief, from poverty, from addiction, from limited opportunities in life. All of the characters certainly experience agony, but none of them experience salvation, though they all look for it in their own ways. Sonny’s brother does so by starting a family, having a career, and creating a home. However, despite the unequivocal worth of such, none of this offers the brother salvation; he still lives in a Harlem housing project that makes him wonder as he brings Sonny home if he is “simply bringing him back into the danger he had almost died trying to escape” (Baldwin 840). He, whom is not stranded in the thrashing sea of addiction, is not free. He makes the decisions that he believes are best for him, and it is easy to look upon these choices and wonder why Sonny does not make them as well, why he chooses heroin. Sonny and his brother are not the same, their suffering and their souls are too different, and they necessitate different means of coping. “Heroin…when it [is] in [the] veins…makes [one] feel sort of warm and cool at the same time. And distant…and sure…it makes [one] feel in control…it [is] to stand it, to be able to make it at all. On any level…in order to keep from shaking to pieces” (853-854). This is the sensation Sonny is addicted to, the only weak semblance of solace he finds. The tragic irony is that Sonny finds this facade of consolation in music, his passion, but a passion tainted by vice. This only perpetuates his suffering.

In Sonny’s Blues, Baldwin closely links the themes of suffering and the home. The home is a physical place in Sonny’s Blues, but it is also an idea. It is a place to escape from, a place to return to, a place with both horrible and wonderful memories. Home is comfort, conflict, grief, suffering, and caring all combined. It is an apartment and it is a nightclub. Its residents are both actual and created family. Home is literal but it is also symbolic, since in many ways home is simply the feeling that one belongs. The nightclub where Sonny plays the piano is “his kingdom. Here, it [is] not even a question that his veins bore royal blood” (860). The nightclub is truly Sonny’s “home” now. He is comfortable here, in his element. He has created a home for himself outside of the place where he sleeps and eats, where he is accepted and admired, and that transforms the nightclub from a den of music and vice and the manifestations of an artist’s soul into Sonny’s home. However, this is a home shared with fellow addicts, people who get high to play music, who are inherently inviting of more suffering at the hands of addiction. Outside of this home, “the world wait[s] outside, as hungry as a tiger, and…trouble stretch[es] above [them], longer than the sky” (863). Nonetheless, this home gives Sonny a genuine feeling of peace, with himself and the world, however temporary. Its music gives him tranquility, and, despite all of his suffering, it also paradoxically holds the ability to help Sonny overcome his addiction. One of the many tragedies of Sonny is that his home offers him no real guarantees; like all homes it can both wound and heal, but to a possibly fatal extent when the wounding is done by addicts and heroin.

Throughout Sonny’s Blues, Baldwin works to establish suffering as intrinsic to human life. He states that all people approach their pain and suffering in their own ways, that there is no given formula for addressing grievance. The character of Sonny resorts to heroin in an attempt to soothe his internal poison, but the devastating result is the agony of addiction, for both himself and those that love him. Despite this, Sonny works to overcome his tribulations, particularly through his created home, the place of his music and like-minded friends-turned-kin. This determination to surmount his addiction, always while being fully aware of his pain, makes Sonny into a tragic hero, attempting to live honestly according to a soul that is all his own, not his brother’s; the soul of an artist.

Redemption in “Sonny’s Blues”

James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a tale of suffering. Placed in an environment that is “encircled by disaster” (Baldwin 1615), the narrator constantly attempts to escape from the suffering around him. He avoids all contact with those around him and becomes disconnected from who he truly is. However, it is through his brother, Sonny, that the narrator realizes that running from his troubles and those closest to him is not the answer. Sonny’s ability to channel his suffering through his music portrays Baldwin’s central message, that only by finding meaning in suffering can one can truly live.

Nearly every negative aspect of the narrator’s life seems to come from the environment around him – specifically the evils of racial segregation that plague Harlem. Although the narrator believes to have escaped from his upbringing by getting an education, he also acknowledges that he “left something… behind” (1615). The narrator’s loss can be seen in the monotony of his daily life. He does not believe that his job as a high school teacher makes any impact on the racially biased social system of the day, that his students are “growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities” (1610). Sonny has also lost a part of himself to his drug addiction, but Sonny’s letter to his brother reveals that he feels as though his experience with addiction has taught him something and given him purpose. It is here that the reader can see the irony of the brothers’ story. The narrator has worked hard to gain his education but has suffered without finding meaning in his life. It is Sonny, the drug addicted brother, who is able to find meaning and help to end the narrator’s suffering.

The narrator’s suffering is directly paralleled by that of his father. The narrator’s mother warns him, saying “don’t let [Sonny] fall, no matter what it looks like is happening to him and no matter how evil you gets with him” (1618). Although the narrator “caught [Sonny] just before he fell when he took the first steps he ever took in this world” (1614), he has failed to help his brother since the death of their parents. Likewise, the narrator’s father suffered after helplessly witnessing the death of his brother. The narrator seems just as helpless shortly after learning of Sonny’s heroin use; by fleeing from his suffering the narrator has disconnected with those who should be closest, including his brother. Additionally, the narrator has also recently lost a close family member, his daughter. These examples make it clear that the way to end the narrator’s suffering is through helping Sonny and reconnecting with those closest to him.

Sonny’s suffering revolves around his heroin addiction. However, this seems to be a direct result of the narrator’s lack of presence in Sonny’s life. The narrator himself seems to be aware of this, as he states: “I had a lot of things on my mind and I pretty well forgot my promise to Mama until I got shipped home on a special furlough for her funeral” (1618). However, Sonny continues to suffer while the narrator is away, dropping out of school and beginning his addiction to heroin while the narrator is overseas. Sonny is eventually able to channel is suffering through his music, but originally this is against the wishes of his brother. The narrator is reluctant to support Sonny’s decision at first, instead he believes that music is “beneath [Sonny], somehow” (1619). While the narrator attempts to help Sonny by encouraging him to conform to a life of education as the narrator has, he ignores what Sonny believes to be his life’s calling. Later in the story, music will serve as the vessel to free both Sonny and the narrator from their suffering.

The instances of music in “Sonny’s Blues” always seem to calm an otherwise turbulent situation. While the narrator is sitting in a classroom in the beginning of the story, he describes the whistling of a student as uplifting. The turning point of the story is accompanied by an occurrence of music. During a revival meeting, the narrator notices that “the music seemed to soothe a poison out of them; and time seemed, nearly, to fall away from the sullen, belligerent, battered faces, as though they were fleeing back to their first condition, while dreaming of their last” (1624). It is only after Sonny points out that the singer at the revival meeting had to suffer in order to give meaning to the listeners that the narrator realizes the futility of attempted to fully escape from suffering. At this point he “had held silence-for so long!-when [Sonny] had needed human speech to help him” (1626). The final occurrence of music takes place at the end of the story, and it makes the narrator realize that “while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness” (1629-1630). It is at this point that the narrator realizes that a person must have meaning in order to live.

James Baldwin uses “Sonny’s Blues” to describe an optimistic philosophy in what seems like a profoundly pessimistic story. The main purpose of the nameless narrator may be to suggest that his story does not have a name; stories like this one are repeated throughout the world. Throughout the story, characters struggle to escape from what they believe to be their meaningless suffering. However, it is through their attempts at escape that the real damage is done. By attempting to escape from the environment around him, the narrator escapes from those that are most important to them and nearly guarantees that he will find no meaning in his life. Only by witnessing his brother’s self-expression can the narrator find meaning and truly live.

Darkness and Light in “Sonny’s Blues”

In James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” the abundance of darkness reveals the beauty of light. Despite how uncomfortable and painful it is to be in the dark, the main character, Sonny empowers himself by stepping into the light and incorporating his dark experiences into his passion of music. The darkness represents the destitution that is faced everyday on the harsh streets of Harlem. These streets are ridden with the reality of drugs and crime and these wrongdoings are almost impossible for adolescents to break away from. Sonny, a struggling jazz musician, finds himself to be a victim to the streets of Harlem. He finds that heroin is the only way he can express his artistic and creative potential while shying away from reality. However, his experience with darkness led him to the light. Sonny attempts to step in the light when he rejects drugs from his life to advance his passion for jazz music. Light and darkness are deliberate metaphors used by Baldwin to convey the message of truth and reality, as well as the hardships of adversity. In the beginning of the story, the narrator symbolizes darkness with a negative connotation when he mentions “the swinging light of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside”(43). This reference is significant because it is a contrast to the dismal society that the narrator and his brother Sonny live in. The darkness is the portrayal of the community of Harlem that is trapped in their surroundings by physical, economic, and social barriers. The obvious nature of darkness has overcome the occupants of the Harlem community. The narrator, an algebra teacher, observes a depressing similarity between his students and his brother Sonny. This is true because the narrator is fearful for his students falling into a life of crime and drugs, as did his brother. The narrator notes that the cruel realities of the streets have taken away the possible light from the lives of his brother and his students. An insightful connection is made by the narrator between the darkness that Sonny faced and the darkness that the young boys are presently facing. This is illustrated when the narrator expresses: These boys, now, were living as we’d been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities. They were filled with rage. All they really knew were two darkness’s, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and darkness of the movies, which had blinded them to that other darkness, and in which they now, vindictively, dreamed, at once more together than they were at any other time, and more alone. (44) The passage demonstrates how darkness has overcome the lives of the children without them realizing it. The darkness also represents the lack of opportunity available to them. The young boys live in a dark reality where they do not know and are not familiar with light, and therefore do not have anything to look forward to.The motif of light and darkness is also demonstrated when the narrator recalls his and Sonny’s childhood and gives examples regarding his recollection of his family on Sunday evenings. The narrator makes several points in regard to the silence in the room and “the darkness growing against the windowpanes”(49). He states that the darkness that is outside is where the older generation of his family comes from and what they bear. He recalls the children sitting on the mother’s lap and he points out that:The silence, the darkness coming, and the darkness in the faces frighten the child obscurely. He hopes that the hand which strokes his forehead will never stop—will never die. But something deep and watchful in the child knows that this is bound to end, is already ending. And when the light fills the room, the child is filled with darkness.(50) In this quote, the narrator is showing that with the light comes knowledge of the world for the child. The light is bleak and not always encouraging. When the child exposes himself to the world he loses part of his innocence and childhood. Therefore, the child may wish to remain in the darkness. The darkness in this specific excerpt is personified as a slow and gentle relief. The narrator attempts to convey the concept that darkness, which in reality means nothing without any light to illuminate it; this is because the light makes one aware of the dark, and therefore comprehend reality. The pain that Sonny undergoes is only satisfied when he is playing his music, and it is through this that the narrator accepts Sonny as a person and as a musician. Acceptance of Sonny’s profession is extremely difficult for the narrator because he has always associated Sonny’s music with darkness and drugs. Nevertheless, the darkness of the night in the jazz club illustrates the complication and wonder of jazz to the narrator. In the jazz club, there is a struggle with light and darkness. This is exemplified when Sonny and the rest of the musicians wait to go on stage and the narrator notices: The light from the bandstand spilled just a little short of them and, watching them laughing and gesturing and moving about, I had the feeling that they, nevertheless, were being most careful not to step into the circle of light too suddenly; that if they moved into the light too suddenly, without thinking, they would perish in flame. (61) The passage suggests that to embrace the truth and gain conscious awareness too quickly is painful and devastating. Unfortunately for Sonny and the rest of the musicians, the fear of something new, regardless of how pleasant it could be, was too uncomfortable to take advantage of at this point.At the end of the story Sonny is finally able to step in the light and genuinely feel his passion for music. Although the narrator had been objectionable to Sonny’s music earlier on, he finally appreciated Sonny’s way of expression at the end of the story when he listens to Sonny play:I seemed to hear with what burning he had made it his, with what burning we had yet to make it ours, how we could cease lamenting. Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did. Yet, there was no battle in his face now. I heard what he had gone through and would continue to go through until he came to rest in earth.(63)When the narrator listens to Sonny’s music, he is able to share the freedom and reality which connects them in the light.Everyone has daily struggles in life, however, the manner by which different people approach them determines whether the individual would be able to shine in the light. Within the consciousness of reality that is obvious throughout this story, there are instances of peace and hope, which make the darkness in life worth living. The two brothers attempt to repair the void that has been left in their lives and are surrounded by a world full of shadows and light. Jointly, they face the unavoidable darkness that had overwhelmed their lives. Using music as a form of communication, the brothers are able to overcome their differences and create order in their chaotic life. The painful realization of the truth enables them to redirect their lives and rebuild a relationship. If the brothers would have not experienced the darkness together, they would have never shared the beauty in the light.

Black Masculinity As Constructed Through Baldwin

James Baldwin provides several constructions of black masculinity through his two texts Everybody’s Protest Novel and Sonny’s Blues. Since this essay is comparing works from the same author, it is essential to look at what these constructions are and also the consistency of them within his work. For the purpose of viewing black masculinity as a construct, Everybody’s Protest Novel serves as the basis for which this construct is viewed in the two main characters of Sonny’s Blues. Through this analysis, Baldwin will be held up to the standard of his own work – a standard which he has created for himself. The way that Baldwin constructs the characters of Sonny’s Blues is contingent upon his discussion of “the protest novel” and also how he constructs the differences between true images of the Negro and the falsely constructed images in texts such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Sonny and the narrator are depictions of the ideal and faltering constructions of black masculinity in Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues.Everybody’s Protest Novel is a criticism of the portrayal of the Negro in literature. Baldwin uses the behavior of the black characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin as examples of the ways that black masculinity is portrayed. Tom is the character that Baldwin criticizes the most, stating that Tom is a product of white America. He is content in the image of blackness that America has created for him. Tom is comfortable in his complacency and thereby seen as siding with his white oppressor. To this character of “Uncle Tom”, Baldwin pairs the narrator of his story, Sonny’s Blues.The first impression of a black male given in Sonny’s Blues is of the narrator. At a glance, it appears he is living the American Dream. He is a quiet-as-kept high-school teacher who has followed the ‘straight’ path in life. He helped his mother with her responsibilities and acted as a father figure to Sonny, joined the military, educated himself, married, and had children. In the latter ways, these descriptions resemble the archetypal image of the (white) American Dream. The narrator is disconnected from black culture and portrayed as feeding into the system in an attempt to live a ‘cookie-cutter’ life. The narrator even admits his disconnection in a conversation he and Sonny have about a jazz musician: ‘Well look Sonny, I’m sorry, don’t get mad… Name somebody – you know, a jazz musician you admire.’ ‘Bird.’ ‘Who?’ ‘Bird! Charlie Parker! Don’t they teach you nothing in the goddamn army?’ I lit a cigarette. I was surprised and then a little amused to discover that I was trembling. ‘I’ve been out of touch….'” (Baldwin 1738) Baldwin uses this revelation as a turning point for the narrator to move towards becoming ‘in touch’ and more representative of a Negro in American culture verses the American outside of Negro culture he has formerly been. A second point to note is that the narrator does not have a name. It is probable that Baldwin uses this as a ploy to further his idea of this faulty construction of masculinity. What better way to discredit a character than to take away his identity as Baldwin does? The realization that the narrator is forced into is constructed through Sonny. It carries the message that the American Dream is unobtainable to the black man, and is essential to our understanding of Baldwin’s construction of black masculinity. It is here that the character of Sonny becomes instrumental in shaping the role of black masculinity and the way that it should be constructed to achieve truth and righteousness as a black man.In opposition to the any of the characters in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Sonny is Baldwin’s example of how the true black man should be represented in protest literature. At first, Sonny is seen as a drifter, an addict trying to escape his destruction. This point is in compliance with Baldwin’s idea that “The failure of the protest novel lies in its rejection of life, the human being….” (Baldwin 1705). In order to exemplify Baldwin’s ideal of a real black man, Sonny has to endure real strife. As a result, he embraces life and is made true through his relatedness to a real human with faults. Soon Sonny becomes the focal point of the story as his struggle to do what is right emerges. In his encounters with the narrator (his brother), Sonny quickly becomes Baldwin’s example of what black masculinity should entail. In his decision to pursue his music, Sonny embodies Baldwin’s definition of truth with relation to blackness as seen in Everybody’s Protest Novel, “…[T]ruth, as used here, is meant to imply a devotion to the human being, his freedom and fulfillment; freedom which cannot be legislated, fulfillment which cannot be charted,” (Baldwin 1700). To put this definition into the context of Sonny, he does what makes him happy, rather that what he feels he is supposed to (as mandated by the American Dream which excludes black identity). Through the development of Everybody’s Protest Novel and Sonny’s Blues Baldwin uses the “Uncle Tom”-like character of the narrator to set an example of the misinterpretation of black masculinity. The narrator depicts every aspect that Baldwin protests and for this reason, he uses the character of Sonny to rectify the ideals of true black masculinity. Baldwin creates this dichotomy between the narrator and Sonny to show the ideal form of black masculinity. While the narrator is trying to obtain the unobtainable, Sonny is just trying to maintain. And maintaining, in Baldwin’s view, is what black identity, and ultimately masculinity, is all about.

Music Effecting Change

Music is a powerful language which speaks to us, moves us, and fills us with emotion. In Sonny’s Blues, the voice of Jazz mediates the relationship between two brothers. As the older brother’s appreciation of music grows, he understands better the troubles in Sonny’s life and as a result realizes the hardships which also fill his life. As more music enters the brother’s life, the effects of Sonny’s piano playing moves him closer to his sibling.The two brother’s different perspectives on life keep them apart. The relationship they have as brothers proves that their dissimilar interests cause the separation between them. “I didn’t write Sonny or send him anything for a long time.” (25) Sonny is a musician and endures the day because of it. Music is a savior to him. In contrast, the other brother, who is the narrator, is an educator and worries about Sonny’s convictions to finish his last year in school. The older brother reaches out to Sonny only after the death of his youngest daughter. The narrator’s tragedy makes his younger brother’s troubles seem real. The older brother attempts to help Sonny through these dark times because he thinks his life is in a stable place, but as music enters his life, he will realize that he and Sonny must help each other.Before music changed the brother’s viewpoint on life, Sonny’s announcement of his pursuit to be a Jazz pianist annoys him. “I simply couldn’t see why on earth he’d want to spend his time hanging around nightclubs, clowning around on bandstands” (32). He feels that Sonny is much better than the music these “good-time people” (32) played. Sonny was immature and stubborn with his brother, even when he offers to sample Sonny’s type of music. Though the narrator wishes the best for his brother, he is skeptical about Sonny’s ability to support himself by performing Jazz. His brother’s response to the skepticism shows the narrator how serious Sonny is about his music. The narrator enjoys music, but not as the focus of Sonny’s life. He describes a tune whistled by a boy as “at once very complicated and very simpleŠit sounded very cool and moving through all that harsh, bright air, only just holding its own through all those other sounds” (22), but he does not have a good understanding of music and does not love music like Sonny does. The boy reminds him of Sonny at that age, when the denial of their future possibilities fills him with rage which leads him to heroine. At this point, the two brothers are at different levels of appreciation of music, and likewise their bond is weak. They are brothers only by blood and there is no closeness between them.The narrator first gains musical enlightenment when he watches and listens to the sidewalk revival. He stands at his window, watching and listening to the three sisters and one brother sing their gospel songs. “As the singing filled the air the watching, listening faces underwent a change” (37). The brother also goes through a change, as he sees the music “soothe a poison” (37) within the crowd. He notices an impatient man, fumbling for change as if he were late for a meeting. In contrast, Sonny was relaxed in a slow walk as if to his own inner music. The narrator was once that impatient man who led the structured life but had no time to enjoy the music. He is starting to better understand music but still observes the beautiful art from a distance. After Sonny enters the house, he asks his brother to hear him play in the village, which the brother agrees to. The music and the words of the revival soften his heart to Sonny. Sonny realizes this change in his brother and discusses his past heroine addiction. They converse on suffering and the relief of it. Sonny tells his brother how he suffers and that music helps ease the pain. The narrator discovers the darkness that is in his brother’s life. He also understands Sonny’s music represents the hope that the sun will once again reign over his darkness. At the end of their conservation, the narrator has new insight on his brother’s life and music.At the nightclub Sonny was playing, the narrator realizes that he also has trouble in his life, much like his brother. In this atmosphere, Sonny was the celebrity and from Creole’s words, the narrator understood how talented Sonny was. “And he (Creole) smiled, ŒYou got a real musician in your family.’ “(41). The crowd warmly welcomes Sonny and they begin to jam. Music is a language, and Jazz is the dialect Sonny and the others speak. The narrator realizes that while some hear the music, the musicians creating it hear something else. At first, Sonny has difficulties blending with the other musicians. The narrator understands the musical conversation between Creole and the others. He observes the initial difficulties are reflective of Sonny’s younger days. When Sonny is “part of the family (band members) again” (43), it symbolizes his return to his own family. Sonny takes over with an improvisation, and from his smile, his brother can see Sonny is at his best. Creole, the wiser of the musicians, reminds the group that they are playing the blues, Sonny’s blues. From Sonny’s expression, the battle which is in his life is temporarily forgotten. There is only freedom lurking, which he found because he was listening to Sonny’s music.The narrator sees from Sonny’s playing could help him be free, only if he listens with appreciation. “He would never be free until we did (listen).” (43) The older brother reflects upon the troubles in their lives and that there would be more waiting outside of the night club. After the performance, the narrator sends a drink to Sonny, and Sonny nods toward his brother in acknowledgment. He nods because he knows he has the approval of his older brother. The cup shook above Sonny’s head like the “very cup of trembling.” (44) This cup symbolizes the wrath and judgment which the narrator no longer has for Sonny. “See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger (cup of trembling); from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again.” (Isaiah 51:22 NIV) Since the narrator now understands the music of his brother, their relationship is at its closest.Through the language of music, the narrator and his brother become closer in their relationship. The other brother, driven by the need to help Sonny’s troubles, realizes the worries in his own life. Through his music, Sonny could help his brother, and in return, the brother helps him. At the end of Sonny’s jazz performance, their views and understandings are still different, but much closer than before. Though they have different interpretations of the black and bouncy jazzy blues, it is their own, and that is what makes music universal and beautiful. Throughout his narrative, the brother changes his view towards Sonny’s musical talent. In the end, their relationship is strong, bonded by their understanding of music. Sonny told his life’s blues through the jazz he played, and when the brother finally understood and accepted Sonny’s music, he understood the tragedies of his brother’s life.

Richard Wright & James Baldwin Essay Analysis Essay

James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues” is about the complicated relationship between two brothers. The tale opens with a nameless narrator discovering his brother, Sonny, had been imprisoned for the use and distribution of heroin. Until his daughter Grace died, the narrator neglected to write to her uncle in prison. However, after Sonny received the proverbial olive branch, the brothers remained in perpetual communication. In an attempt to reconnect, Sonny was invited to stay at the narrator’s family’s apartment when he was released from jail. In an interminable flashback, the readers are offered insight into the narrator and Sonny’s family environment growing up: Sonny and his father always fought because they were too much alike, and the refined ways his mother would keep the peace. The narrator recollected returning to the army and unwittingly forgetting about his family affairs, at least until his mother died. At the funeral, Sonny told his brother of his dream to be a jazz pianist, but the narrator dismissed him and sends him away to school. However, after some issues with school attendance and differing opinions arise, Sonny rashly decided to join the navy. The narrator recalls that the brothers didn’t see one another for a while, but when they finally did, they had a heated argument about Sonny’s life choices; which was the end of the narrator’s walk down memory lane. After cohabitating post-incarceration with his brother’s family, Sonny invites his brother to watch him play the piano at a small jazz club where Sonny was well-received. While watching his brother play passionately, the narrator finally realized the greatness his brother was capable of. James Baldwin’s short story is a tale about a man who started as misunderstood boy that made bad choices and ended up in prison, but through the help of family and music, found his path to salvation in the end. In this mercurial story, Baldwin captures the feelings of obligation towards family, even when we aren’t always willing to fulfill our duties.

The short story “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright is about a seventeen-year-old boy named Dave who was desperate for the feeling of power and resolved that owning a gun was the best way to achieve that need. After convincing a shopkeeper to lend him a pistol for a night, he spent all his time admiring and hiding it. When his mother found it, he persuaded her to supply him with the money he needed to buy it, as he eased her mind with several falsehoods. Dave foolishly let the power go to his head and while trying to use the gun, he shot and killed the family mule. He unsuccessfully tried to cover-up his stupidity by hiding the gun and mule but wound up agreeing to pay his father the money for the mule. Then during a sleepless night, he retrieved the gun and forced himself to fire the rest of the rounds with more confidence and ran away from home via a train in the night. Richard Wright not only demonstrates the dangers of using gun unknowledgeably in this short story but the dangers that are presented by letting the power of control go to your head.

James Baldwin and Richard Wright’s short stories have several similarities between a few of their key characters, with noticeable discrepancies that can give the themes of the stories contrasting messages. The title characters in both “Sonny’s Blues” and “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” happen to be the main troubled characters, Sonny and Dave. The two fictional males are similar in personality and background as well: They were both African American men who grew up in a decent-enough home, they were both looking for freedom, and they both found it – at least temporarily – through addiction; whether it was to heroin and power. However, the intriguing part is differences between the two characters. While Dave was on the ultimate power-hungry trip to self-destruction, Sonny had served his time for his crimes and seemed to have found his sense of purpose, if not passion, in playing the piano. One of the themes they may be conflicting is the difference between Sonny seeking redemption by choosing family and passion over drug addiction, and Dave running away in the dead of night in search of the ultimate feeling of power. However, considering both of these men experienced somewhat comparable struggles, it can be argued that Dave could be a more severe representation of how Sonny may have been perceived to be in his mid-to-late adolescence.

Past and Future Blues: A Comparison of Historical Themes in ‘Sonny’s Blues’ and ‘The Underground Railroad’

The past is anything but mere history; it sheathes, surrounds, and encompasses us, as humans, as we forge on through life. Similarly, in two eminent American works of fiction – The Underground Railroad, The Cafeteria, and Sonny’s Blues – the past is eloquently woven in and out of the story, drastically influencing the reader’s perception of each tale and creating multidimensional narratives that focus on not only the present moment, but key events that shaped and molded it. Out of these three stories, Sonny’s Blues can be compared to The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead in that they both examine the tough historical narrative of racism and prejudice in the United States; ultimately though, Baldwin’s short story deals with the past in a very different manner, one valuing literary complexity over historical emphasis. With gripping prose and haunting narrative lyricism, Sonny’s Blues truly captures the weight of the past- personal, cultural, and familial- as it relates to our futures.

Both The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin explore the theme of pervasive racism against blacks in the United States: one through the harsh brutalities of slavery, and the other through numerous examples of a rough, unforgiving world where prejudice prevails. The Underground Railroad is at its very essence, a book about slavery and the struggle for freedom, both physically and mentally. The protagonist, Cora, is running away from the merciless environment of her plantation through the Underground Railroad, a network of subterranean railroad tunnels that takes her to various states and locations, all the while being pursued by her white masters and slave catchers. Countless times Cora describes the macabre horrors of slavery: the scorching agony of punishment, and the grisly executions of those who try to run and are caught. Through Cora’s eyes, we, as the readers, witness the abomination of slavery from a close-up perspective, and the terrible physical and mental toll it takes on the black people entrapped in its merciless clutches. The book is first and foremost a historical novel; it is absolutely centered around slavery and its brutality.

Although set in a very different America, one well after the emancipation of slaves, Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin also explores racism against the black population, this time in a more private, but not any less shocking way. In one emotional moment, the reader learns of the untimely death of the narrator and Sonny’s uncle when he is struck by a car full of drunk white men one night. As their mother described it, their father had “never in his life seen anything as dark as that road after the lights of that car had gone away” (Baldwin, 13). This horrifying incident demonstrates the harsh reality of a racist world; even though black people had finally escaped slavery, they were still disregarded and abused by whites. Furthermore, the theme of “[darkness]” is prevalent throughout Sonny’s Blues as a force of cruelty, something creeping right outside the door, always waiting to swoop in and extinguish any sources of light and life. In one scene, the narrator describes a seemingly harmless scene in the living room with his family; however, Baldwin details of “the darkness growing against the windowpanes… every face looks darkening, like the sky outside” (11). “Darkness” is a word undeniably connected with blackness, with black skin and all the pain, prejudice, and brutality that comes with it. Even in peaceful times, the darkness, or their own blackness, and the harsh world it brings, is inescapable. The child in the room knows it, seeing the adults’ faces “darkening” with the truth, that this place he has been born in is a cold, unforgiving place for blacks. Even hundreds of years after slavery has ended, he is still one of millions trapped in the harsh reality of a racist society, an impoverished population infused with drugs and peril. In this manner, though set years apart, The Underground Railroad and Sonny’s Blues both carefully examine racial prejudice in the United States, and how the history of America is undeniably one built on a bloody racial hierarchy.

While Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad explores history in the most literal of senses, Sonny’s Blues focuses on the personal and familial pasts of the black characters featured, fleshing them out with intricate psychological detail. Although Sonny’s Blues does mention several times ideas of racial prejudice against black people, the overarching themes of the story are not about race at all. To me, Sonny’s Blues discusses, along with the deep struggles of human nature, the pure interconnectedness between time periods. The past is seen in every aspect of the story, from the unnamed narrator’s constant habit to see people as their former child selves, to his historically bitter and resentful relationship with Sonny, his younger brother and the titular character. These two factors are firmly intertwined; the narrator always sees people as their innocent past personas because he cannot help but do the same to Sonny. To him, Sonny will always be a child, someone he has to protect and guide. However, this rigid mindset is damaging because what Sonny demands from his brother is not protection and patronization, but respect. Sonny’s frustration with the narrator’s condescending attitude is revealed when during their conversation about career choices, he says, “I hear you. But you never hear anything I say” (18). The narrator does not truly understand Sonny’s turbulent emotions until the end when he sees him play the piano, and for the first time truly “hears” him, recognizing his pain as real and deserving of acknowledgement. However, as he earlier mourns, “There stood between us, forever, beyond the power of time or forgiveness, the fact that I had held silence- so long!- when he had needed human speech to help him” (25). Because of the aggrieved personal and familial history between them, the fact that the narrator had withheld “human speech”, or support from Sonny for so long, they will never be able to truly connect as brothers for the rest of their lives, even after he finally recognizes Sonny as an equal. This detail is what makes the story so poignant and tragic, the characters so piteously relatable in their broken, fragmented relationship. In this way, Sonny’s Blues utilizes past events to indicate a bleak future, connecting two time periods to create a heartbreaking narrative of two forever estranged brothers.

Overall, Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin is a remarkable tale, exploring the darker sides of personal introspection, family bonds, and black culture in 20th century Harlem through its use of past events to deepen readers’ understanding of the present. Through an enthralling narrative combined with complex character relationships, Baldwin demonstrates irrefutably how past events- historical or personal- can result in long-lasting effects that refuse to disappear over time, a phenomenon applicable in even our daily lives. However, although our past defines us, it does not have to be in a negative manner; for example, Sonny and so many other great musicians in real life would never have been able to create such beautiful, soul-touching music without suffering as they did. In the end, for good or for bad, our past is an undeniable authority in determining our future.

A Struggle for Light: Examining Windows in “Sonny’s Blues”

There is a worn-out old saying about how when a door closes, there will always be a window to crawl through instead. But what if the window has bars on it? Or what if it is too high for someone to reach without anyone to give them a boost, and no one seems to be around? Or what if there are others around, but they’re all scrambling to get outside and not everyone can quite squeeze through the opening? This analogy is reminiscent of what blacks were going through in 1957 – the year in which James Baldwin wrote “Sonny’s Blues.” Windows appear as a motif throughout the short story, appearing in nearly every scene. Windows, even while shedding light on reality, provide a view into the unattainable; both of these functions drain the hope from the disadvantaged people of Harlem. There is one exception though, in the character of Sonny himself, who creates his own hope – his own light – even among darkness. The windows in “Sonny’s Blues” let in light, which helps to illuminate several realities for the characters in the story. Interestingly enough, this illumination begins with darkness. At one point the narrator recalls the Sunday evenings of his childhood, where guests from church would gather in the living room with his parents. The “darkness growing against the windowpanes” (Mays 82) is a reminder to the children, including the young narrator, that their world is one of imminent darkness. The blackness of the night envelopes them just as the blackness of their skin and the murkiness of their neighborhood does; it constantly threatens them, knocking at the window like a tree branch on a stormy night. By the time the narrator grows up, however, he is quite used to the darkness of his life and the tenebrous windows take on a new meaning: denial.

The story opens in a subway, where windows are rendered useless in the tunnels, as the narrator reads the newspaper and learns of his brother’s arrest for heroin. Denial is actually a comforting possibility in the shadowy underground, and it takes the narrator quite a while to believe the news. The narrator had been avoiding the truth for a while before the story begins, pushing it out into the darkness where he didn’t have to look at it. He’d “kept it outside… for a long time.” (Mays 74) For people privileged enough to live outside of Harlem, looking through a window might be a pleasant experience. But for residents of Harlem, it is only a reminder of the violent, dingy neighborhoods they were born into. The people in the story escape their underprivileged realities by ignoring the windows, instead turning to entertainment as a distraction. As Baldwin says, “the darkness of the movies… blinded them to that other darkness” (Mays 75). In the housing project the narrator lives in, there are huge windows in the houses. But no one “bothers” with them, instead opting to “watch the TV screen” (Mays 80). Television and the movies show something different from reality, a welcome break from the gloomy view outside. The illuminating power of windows in “Sonny’s Blues” is shown no better than in the scene in which the narrator remembers talking to his mother for the last time. In the scene, he finds out many shocking things – his father had a brother who was killed, his father cried often to his mother behind closed doors, etc. He learns all this from his mother, who is sitting in the window, the light shining on her black dress, a spotlight for darkness the narrator did not even know existed. “This was the first time,” he said, “I ever saw my mother look old” (Mays 83). At the same time as the narrator is enlightened about his father, his mother stares off into the streets, dreamily, humming a church song, as though looking for something more. The mother is not the only one to look through the windows to find something unattainable. When Sonny returns to New York, he and the narrator take a cab to their neighborhood. Sonny requests that they drive through the park so he can see the city he hadn’t seen for quite some time. As they both stare through the windows, the narrator realizes that in order for anyone to “escape the trap” of Harlem as he did – he had gotten himself a respectable job as an algebra teacher – they must lose something of themselves. Nobody gets out whole and complete. He realizes he and Sonny are looking out the windows for “the part of [them]selves which had been left behind” (Mays 80). Another poignant scene in which the narrator is looking for something impossible to grasp through a window is when the narrator observes a revival meeting. They begin singing “‘Tis the old ship of Zion… it has rescued many a thousand” (Mays 92). But, as the narrator points out, not one of the people listening to the hymn had been rescued. It has an effect on people nonetheless. Sonny compares the woman’s singing voice to a drug (Mays 93). The views from certain windows could be like a drug sometimes.

Another time in the story a window is compared to a lodestone (Mays 96), which is a magnetic rock. Even though the people in the story know things are likely impossible, they cannot stay away from those thoughts. At this point, it ought to be noted that windows are not the only interior feature that represents the unattainable in this story. On the very first page, Baldwin sets up the idea of rooms as barriers. The opportunities of young boys in Harlem are deterred by the “low ceiling of their actual possibilities” (Mays 74). So, while they are trapped in cramped, low-ceilinged rooms, all they have is a window to look out of to see just what it is they are missing out on. The interesting thing is that windows are mentioned almost everywhere in the story except in the scenes where Sonny is playing the piano. Sonny’s name is no accident. It is a homophone for “sunny.” There is something sunny about his personality; it seems that with his passion for the piano, he is the only one doing what he wants to do with his life (even though his brother is the one with an admirable career). Sonny has created his own sun with music, and when he is playing the piano he doesn’t need any light from the outside world.

One could argue that Sonny is as desperate to crawl through those metaphorical windows as anyone else in the story. After all, he writes in his letter that he “feels like a man who’s been trying to climb of some deep, real deep and funky hole and just saw the sun up there, outside. I got to get outside” (Mays 78). But it is important to remember that this is when he has been arrested and can’t be a part of the jazz scene again until he returns from rehabilitation. He only longs for an open window when he doesn’t have access to his piano. After all, the only time a window is opened in the story, it is opened by Sonny, and he slams it immediately closed again; it let in the stench of garbage cans (Mays 88). Even though he might have had an opportunity to open a metaphorical window to a better life – he was smart, after all – Sonny is content with finding happiness in a darker world of drugs and nightclubs and jazz. Unlike his brother, Sonny is aphotic, growing in spite of darkness rather than trying to slip through a crack into the light. The narrator experiences this beauty in darkness Sonny has found for a brief moment when he listens to Sonny play in the nightclub. He thinks for a moment he might be able to “cease lamenting,” but then remembers that “the world waits outside” (Mays 100). Sonny’s passion is a rare one, and most do not love something so much that their passion can single-handedly bring them joy that is otherwise hindered by their place in society. The modern world might seem very different from the one in 1957, but not everything has changed. Even today, the underprivileged people of this world might try only briefly to claw their way through a window that may or may not exist for them, struggling for light before settling for darkness.

Source: Mays, Kelly J. The Norton Introduction to Literature. W. W. Norton and Company, Inc, 2006. Print.

Understanding Drug Addiction in ‘Sonny’s Blues’

Drug abuse is one of the largest epidemics facing our world today. Through research, we have been able to get a better understanding of the factors that cause drug abuse and consequently drug addiction in the first place. Studies done specifically on the physical effects of drug use have pinpointed the function of specific regions in the brain and how drugs manage to target the brain’s daily functions. Unfortunately, a lot of breakthroughs have been silenced by misinformation spread by mass media. Studies have also found that the way drug users are portrayed has a huge impact on the way society views addicts. Author James Baldwin’s story “Sonny’s Blues” follows the unnamed narrator’s journey after finding out his brother Sonny has been jailed for using and selling heroin. Readers can help deepen readers’ understanding of the issues raised in Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” by explaining what factors lead to drug addiction, displaying the effect drug use has on the brain, exploring how the way drug addiction is portrayed can change one’s attitude towards the topic, and the consequences that drug users may face.

The progression from using and abusing drugs to drug addiction does not happen overnight. There are many factors which may contribute to one’s addiction. Amongst these factors is the inability to find a healthy coping mechanism. A study which polled adolescents in a recovery high school found that “the self-reported reasons for the development of prescription opioid addiction were primarily due to difficulties coping with social situations in which participants found themselves” (Vosburg). The data provided by the study shows that many turn to drug use as a way of dealing with difficult social situations due to not having learned any healthy coping mechanisms. Therefore, a discussion about how to cope with one’s emotions is vital to understanding addiction. Work in this area could lead to the prevention of future addicts as well. To add, an article published in the Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences suggests that “The incidence of drug abuse among children and adolescents is higher than the general population. Students at the secondary/higher secondary level are most vulnerable to slipping into drug abusing behavior due to distress factors, anxiety and peer influence” (Parveen). Again, adolescents are prone to drug abuse and addiction, even more than the general population. Drugs are viewed as a way for students to cope with difficult emotions such as distress and anxiety. In Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”, the main character Sonny struggles with his addiction to heroin, which eventually causes him to end up in jail. Upon his release, he rekindles his love for playing the piano. While viewing Sonny play for the first time in front of an audience, his brother says “…the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours. I just watched Sonny’s face. His face was troubled, he was working hard, but he wasn’t with it. And I had the feeling that, in a way, everyone on the bandstand was waiting for him, both waiting for him and pushing him along” (Baldwin). For Sonny, playing the piano was an outlet. He coped with his addiction by expressing his feelings through his music. Not only did his passion for music help him cope with his addiction, but his fellow musicians served as a great support system. They encouraged him to continue fighting even when it would’ve been easier for him to give up.

Just as an addiction is not developed overnight, one cannot simply rid themselves of an addiction with the snap of a finger. This is mainly due to the significant effects that drugs have on a user’s brain. A report written by the National Institutes of Health explains that “Almost all drugs that change the way the brain works do so by tinkering with chemical neurotransmission. Some drugs, like heroin, mimic the effects of a natural neurotransmitter. Others, like LSD, block receptors and thereby prevent neuronal messages from getting through. Still others, like caffeine and PCP, exert their effects by interfering with the way messages proceed from the surface receptors into the cell interior” (Bethesda). Each drug has its own unique effect on the brain. Different drugs will interfere with the way the brain is meant to normally function on a daily basis. As if that’s not enough, there’s more. The report goes on to mention that “When drugs interfere with the delicate mechanisms through which nerve cells transmit, receive, and process the information critical for daily living, we lose some of our ability to control our own lives. The continued use of these drugs can actually change the way the brain works. This is the biological basis of addiction” (Bethesda). Drug use is extremely harmful to the point of potentially doing irreversible damage to the brain. A single occurrence of drug abuse is enough to lead one down a path of addiction and consequences that cannot be undone. No wonder why it’s so difficult for a non-user to understand the struggles of an addict. This is displayed in “Sonny’s Blues” when his brother says “I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it, and I couldn’t believe it, and I read it again. Then perhaps I just stared at it, at the newsprint spelling out his name, spelling out the story. I stared at it in the swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside. It was not to be believed and I kept telling myself that, as I walked from the subway station to the high school” (Baldwin). His brother can barely come to terms with the fact that Sonny had been sent to jail, let alone understand how someone he thought he knew so well could turn to using and selling drugs. The fact of the matter is that addiction does not discriminate. Anyone, despite their age, race, sexuality, or otherwise is susceptible to the destruction caused by drug abuse.

The way in which drug abuse as well as addiction are portrayed plays a big role in one’s attitude towards the two. Despite significant improvement, there is still an existing level of stigma surrounded the discussion and treatment of users. According to an article written for Saúde e Sociedade, “Throughout the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, people who abused drugs were consensually viewed as solely responsible for their immoral behavior, and considered ‘moral failures’ or ‘bad persons’” (Galvão). The basis on which the public forms their views on drug users is usually the media such as movies, television shows, and news. People rarely ever form their opinions according to real life experiences. A research article written for Social Science and Medicine claimed that “Studies analyzing the content of news and popular media have shown that the majority of individuals with mental illness and drug addiction depicted in the media exhibit deviant or abnormal behavior, in particular violent behavior related to the psychotic symptoms (e.g. hallucinations and delusions) often associated with untreated serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. In contrast, few news stories, television programs or movies portray individuals who undergo successful treatment for mental illness and addiction” (McGinty). The media is constantly providing inaccurate depictions of drug addiction, leading their audience to be misinformed. In turn this largely affects how one views and treats addiction as well as addicts. A survey discussed in the article provided participants with vignettes to read and then recorded answers to questions relating to their attitude towards mental illness and drug addiction. The article goes on to express that “Portrayals of untreated and symptomatic schizophrenia, depression, and heroin addiction heightened negative social distance attitudes toward persons with mental illness. Compared to the control group, respondents exposed to the untreated schizophrenia and untreated heroin addiction vignettes were less willing to have a person with mental illness/drug addiction marry into their family. Respondents exposed to the untreated schizophrenia vignette , the untreated depression vignette , and the untreated heroin vignette reported significantly less willingness to have someone with mental illness/drug addiction work closely with them on a job, compared to the control group” (McGinty). The findings of the study clearly show how powerful the type of information consumed by readers changed the way they viewed the mental illnesses, drug addictions, and those affected by them.

Those who abuse drugs are likely to face countless consequences for their actions. In Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”, the unnamed narrator finds out about his brother Sonny’s drug use through reading a newspaper. He says that Sonny “…had been picked up, the evening before, in a raid on an apartment down-town, for peddling and using heroin” (Baldwin). After being caught selling and using heroin, Sonny is sent to jail. Despite serving jail time, Sonny got off easy. A lot has changed since Baldwin published this piece in 1957. Due to United States laws, specifically mandatory minimums, offenders can find themselves serving a lengthy sentence for even the most minor offense. According to an article from the publication Phi Kappa Phi Forum, “Mandatory minimum sentencing seems like a simple idea. Pass a statute, as New York’s legislature did in 1973, that says if you sell more than two ounces of cocaine, you will get a sentence of at least fifteen years in prison — no ifs, ands, or buts. Encouraged by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, who gave his name to this statute, the legislators thought that they were getting tough on pushers, and their mental picture of the pusher was that of a professional drug dealer, one who lives off the misery of the addicted” (Batey). The reality is that this law did not only apply to repeat offenders; it applied to everyone. Even those facing their first offense with no previous criminal history can spend years behind bars. This doesn’t solve nearly as many problems as it creates. The article goes on to name a perfect example of the failure that is the mandatory minimum sentencing strategy. It tells of Angela Tompkins, “…a seventeen-year-old recruited by her uncle to sell cocaine. Despite a chaotic childhood in which she was passed from one home to another, Angela had no previous criminal record of any sort before she sold cocaine to an undercover agent, who repeatedly insisted that she increase the amount of the sale so that it would exceed the two-ounce level. Without the mandatory minimum, a sentencing judge could have taken all these mitigating facts into account in setting a punishment that fit this young girl’s crime. Instead, New York’s mandatory minimum sentencing law required a fifteen-year sentence, which the New York courts reluctantly upheld on appeal” (Batey). Tompkins’ case displays how easy it is for this broad law, and one false move, to ruin a person’s life permanently.

Jail time is certainly not the worst consequence drug users may face. Overdose has become an all too common, and sometimes fatal, result of abusing drugs. A study reviewed in an article for Drug and Alcohol Dependence examined data from patients of the ages of 18 to 64 years in the Medicaid program. The study found that “Among the nonfatal overdose cohort, 18.9% (14,263 of 75,556) had repeated opioid overdoses during the follow-up period” (Olfson). Not only does drug abuse commonly result in overdose, but drug abusers can experience multiple overdoses, even in span of a single year. Although one may survive an overdose, they are already susceptible to a fatal overdose in the future. The study provided by Drug and Alcohol Dependence also found that “In the first 12 months following nonfatal opioid overdose, 1.0% (770 of 76,166) died of an overdose involving opioids” (Olfson). The numbers of deaths from drug overdose has only been rising as the years go by. According to the American Journal of Public Health, “From 1999 to 2014, the death rate from drug overdose in the United States has tripled, from 4.71 deaths to 13.56 deaths per 100,000 population, creating a public health crisis. This marked increase is driven primarily by prescription opioid overdose and, in recent years, heroin and fentanyl“ (Xiwen). Baldwin’s story does not mention that Sonny overdoses or simply even relapses. The unfortunate reality is that past drug users, even after having experienced jail time, are very likely to overdose and possibly die.

After doing research, those who have read “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin can better understand issues raised in the story through learning what factors turn drug users into addicts, examining how drug use effects the brain, seeing the impact different portrayals of drug addiction has on one’s attitude towards the subject, and the consequences that drug users are likely to face. Problems such as not being able to find a healthy coping mechanism may drive one to abuse and become addicted to drugs. This turns to users being physically affected by their usage, specifically when it comes to brain function. The way that mass media portrays addiction can have a significant impact on how its audience views the topic as well as drug abuse and users in general. Also, those who use drugs can face some horrible consequences; the worst being death.

Works Cited

Batey, Robert. “Mandatory Minimum Sentencing: A Failed Policy.” Phi Kappa Phi Forum, vol. 82, no. 1, Winter 2002, p. 24. EBSCOhost, ezp.raritanval.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bsh&AN=6445626&site=eds-live

McGinty, Emma E., et al. “Portraying Mental Illness and Drug Addiction as Treatable Health Conditions: Effects of a Randomized Experiment on Stigma and Discrimination.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 126, Feb. 2015, pp. 73–85. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.12.010.National Institutes of Health, DHHS), Bethesda, MD. Drugs and the Brain. 1 June 1991. EBSCOhost, ezp.raritanval.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED384833&site=eds-live.

Olfson, Mark, et al. “Full Length Article: Risks of Fatal Opioid Overdose during the First Year Following Nonfatal Overdose.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 190, Sept. 2018, pp. 112–119. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.06.004.

Oliveira Galvão, Ana Erika, et al. “Economic and Sociocultural Poverty in Drug Abuse: From Individual to Sociopolitical Responsibility.” Saúde e Sociedade, vol. 27, no. 3, July 2018, pp. 820–833. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1590/S0104-12902018170970

Parveen, Heena. “Hope, Meaning in Life and Well-Being among Drug Addicts.” Journal of Social & Psychological Sciences, vol. 9, no. 2, July 2016, pp. 1–12. EBSCOhost, ezp.raritanval.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=129284985&site=eds-live.

Vosburg, Suzanne K., et al. “Prescription Opioid Abuse, Prescription Opioid Addiction, and Heroin Abuse among Adolescents in a Recovery High School: A Pilot Study.” Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, vol. 25, no. 2, Jan. 2016, pp. 105–112. EBSCOhost, ezp.raritanval.edu/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1091494&site=eds-live.

Xiwen, Huang, et al. “Increasing Prescription Opioid and Heroin Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2014: An Age-Period-Cohort Analysis.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 108, no. 1, Jan. 2018, pp. 131–136. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.304142.