Comparison Of The Rich Brother By Tobias Wolff And Sonny’s Blues By James Baldwin

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer


Tobias Wolff’s “Rich Brother” and James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” have both similarities and differences in their themes as well as the traits of the main characters. It should be noted that the similarities are brought about by the way the brothers treat each other. Additionally, the similarities arise from the fact that there are some characters who are successful and others who are struggling in both stories. A similarity also arises from the fact that the two older brothers finally come to understand the critical roles their siblings play in their daily lives. One of the notable differences arises from the way Baldwin has portrayed Sony (Baldwin 394). In this case, In this case, Sony engages in illegal dealings, an act which cannot be noted from Wolff’s The Rich Brothers.


In both stories, the element of success has been brought out by the authors. In the case of the Rich Brothers by Wolff, it can be noted that Pete is rich and effective while Donald isn’t. The topic as well as the development of the story heavily focuses on who the rich one is of the two brothers. At some point, we can see Pete giving Donald some money to show he was the effective one in that family. In Sony’s Blues by Baldwin, the narrator who is Sony’s brother is considered more established. This can be noted from the fact that he is a teacher and never engages in any illegal activity to supplement his income. It can then be concluded that the narrator is more successful in that family. On the other hand, Sony is considered unsuccessful in the story by Baldwin. To support the argument, the author portrays Sony as a musician (Baldwin 405). However, he engages in drug taking and selling to supplement his income. Drugs like Heroine are mostly associated with poverty because they tend to relieve the abuser from such sufferings.

In Sony’s Blues and the Rich Brothers, the element of brotherhood has been illustrated by the authors. In the Rich brothers, although Pete feels responsible for his brother’s unsuccessful life. Although Pete at some point tends to feel that Donald ought to be more careful with about the activities he engages in, he cannot just stand and watch his sibling face such a tough life. Pete acknowledges the important role Donald has been playing in his life and this can be seen from the mixed messages he sends to the reader (Hinds 487). The element of brotherhood can also be noted from the fact that Pete knows that incase of any misfortune, he would count on Donald. From the Sony’s Blues story, the element of brotherhood can also be noted from the fact that the narrator is concerned about his brother’s welfare (Kowalska 5). The theme of brotherhood is very clear from the point where the narrator picks Sony from prison after being arrested for selling Heroine. Additionally, the narrator listens to Sony whenever he wants to voice his opinion on any idea they raise. The narrator at the end of the story is seen trying to overcome the boundaries which lay between them and then accepting Sony’s lifestyle. Understanding the direction your sibling has decided to take is an element of brotherhood.


The two stories have notable differences in their development as well as they way the characters behave. In the case of Sony’s Brother, the element of illegality can be noted from Sony. As the story develops, we see Sony engaging in drug abuse and peddling in their society (Baldwin 410). The author tells us that Sony is arrested while abusing and peddling heroine. At the end of the day, Sony is arrested and locked in a prison. The arrest can also be noted from the fact that the narrator who is Sony’s brother learns of the arrest from a newspaper. On the other hand, the element of illegality cannot be seen the Rich Brother’s story. Both Donald and Pete do not engage in any activity which could break the law and land them in prison (Wolff 10). Hence, the difference in the two stories is brought about by the illegal activity Sony engages in and ends up in a prison.


All the things from the two stories considered there is a great deal of similarities. While some readers may think that the narrator appears more understanding of his sibling, the reality is that Pete actually understands while extending help to his brother Donald. The element of brotherhood can be noted from the fact that the narrator is ought to help Sony and Pete is out to help Donald who is unsuccessful. However, the difference lies from the fact that Sony engages in illegal activities, something which Pete and Donald don’t. From the story “Sony’s Blues” we note that Sony ends up in prison for abusing Heroines as well as peddling it in his locality apart from being a musician.

Works Cited

  • Baldwin, James. ‘Sonny’s blues.’ Write Me a Few of Your Lines: A Blues Reader (1999): 394-415.
  • Hinds, Carol. ‘Book Review: The Best American Catholic Short Stories: A Sheed and Ward Collection.’ (2011): 486-489.
  • Kowalska, Eva. ‘Troubled reading:’Sonny’s blues’ and empathy.’ Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies 36.1 (2015): 1-6.
  • Wolff, Tobias. ‘TW The Rich Brother.Pdf’. Docs.Google.Com, 2019, https://www.enotes.com/topics/rich-brother/in-depth


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