“Sonny’s Blues” the Story of Two Brothers

Race and racial relations are presented in three short stories. “Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Row Boat by Russell Banks shows the struggle of interracial relationships in the 1960’s, “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin conveys the hardships African Americans faced in regards to racism, and “The Gilded Six-Bits” by Zora Neale Hurston addresses the issue of race through celebrating the integrity and cultural richness of the all-black community. Three different stories present three different racial relations by the choice of the author’s story to tell and deep emotion for the topic.

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The short story “Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Row Boat” by Russell Banks is about an interracial relationship on the edge of catastrophe. The story is built around the tough topics of racial discrimination and abortion, as a black man who desires his child to be born and not aborted is told by a white woman that she is arranging to have an abortion, after confiding in her mother. Race us viewed as a barrier between two lovers in the story. It’s about forbidden “racial” love and an unwanted “mixed” pregnancy due to society. The setting is gloomy as they are both not in a good situation. Their community has a negative effect on their relationship of their mixing of races is not the social norm and not accepted during this time period. Both characters feel that due to their interracial relationship they have to surrender their baby otherwise they will feel constant judgement from society and her mother. Certainly the woman’s mother and possibly she as well, don’t want a biracial child in their white community. In America, there is a long history of discrimination and hate towards interracial couples until 1967 interracial relationships were considered illegal in some states. The couple’s age gap makes their relationship even more prone to judgment, “the young woman was a girl, actually, twenty or twenty-one” (Banks 63). She is a young pregnant white woman while he is an old black man, society judges and creates many different conclusions about their relationships.

“Sonny’s Blues” is the story of two brothers, one an Algebra professor in Harlem and the other a jazz musician who turns to his heroin addiction and drug dealing, whereas both are in distress from the discrimination endured by African Americans prior to and throughout the Civil Rights Movement. The story is not introduced with personal history information, but as an alternative opens with the narrator learning that his brother’s been arrested for using heroin and drug dealing while on his way to his regular job as a teacher. It is essential to not only examine the connection between the brother and Sonny’s drug abuse, but also the historical location that the story takes place in order to comprehend James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues.” The narrator and his brother have brought up in a primarily black and very deprived community in Harlem. The projects were they resided were a life full of poverty with very little existence of hope for African Americans. The historical setting of James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” expresses the sufferings that African Americans encountered in regards to racism, the wrong decisions of drug and alcohol misuse, and the disadvantage that Harlem destined for several families throughout the Civil Rights Movement.

As the story continues, Sonny has been detained for “peddling and using heroin” (Baldwin 31). Even though the narrator is stunned about his brother, he recognizes that kids can turn “hard, so quick, so quick, especially in Harlem” (Baldwin 33). He refers to the life of black kids in Harlem by expressing that they were maturing in a hurry and their heads hit suddenly against the low ceiling of their true opportunities. To put it differently, racism restricted the possibilities for these boys to prosper in life and to break away from the rough setting in their ghetto community. Sonny attempts to escape his life by means of music and drugs, an arrangement which hardly ever works. The narrator has attempted to be successful and break free in a rather traditional way which is through education and adaptation. After all of his attempts he has only been somewhat prosperous. Even though he has a good career, he resides in a government housing that is pretty much the same housing that he and Sonny grew up in. Race has still trapped him in the cycle of poverty despite his success.

In the story “Gilded Six Bits”, Hurston introduces the story by describing the setting which uses an identical descriptive word repeatedly: “It was a Negro yard around a Negro house in a Negro settlement” (Hurston 421). This purposeful importance highlights the ’blackness’ of the community, describing how it is viewed externally. As that story gets started, the characters’ race is never revealed, however it stays indirectly important. “The Gilded Six-Bits” is set in a neighborhood that is predominately African American; therefore racial dissimilarity is not much of a problem, particularly during the race-aware 1930s. Instead of making her story about the racial struggles of African Americans, the author tackles the problem of race by remembering the honor and cultural wealth of the all-black community. Her story represents race by defining the beauty and pride of black culture. The concern of the community’s narrow-mindedness is discovered in the story throughout the means of a troublesome experienced stranger, Slemmons, who is viewed as remarkable by Missie May and Joe mainly because he is wealthy. Joe goes to shop and have friendly small talk with a white clerk, simply to be termed a “darky” immediately after he exits the room (Hurston 422). Hurston describes the small, predominately black community as a pleasant shelter that protects its occupants from the deceitfulness and prejudgments of the bigger society. The author draws a connection between race and money in her short story ‘‘The Gilded Six-Bits.’’ The author does more than link problems that have to do with race to those that have to do with money.

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“Sonny’s Blues” the Story of Two Brothers. (2020, Jun 15). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from

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