Please answer three (3) of the following questions:
1. The story focuses on two characters, Sonny and his (unnamed) brother; the unnamed brother tells the story. What is each brother like? How are they different? What do they have in common? Which brother do you sympathize with more? Why?
2. Harlem is a powerful presence in the story. Describe how this world has positively and negatively shaped each brother. Is it a more hospitable world than the South their parents knew?
3. Light and darkness are woven together throughout the story. They begin with the narrator’s awareness of the “darknesses” that fill his students as they rage against “the low ceiling of their actual possibilities” and end in the final paragraph, with the glow of the drink in the darkness. Trace the images of light and darkness throughout the story, paying special attention to the racial implications of these images.
4. Music is key to this story, particularly jazz. What does music express for the people of Harlem? For Sonny? For the narrator at different points in the story? Why is the story called “Sonny’s Blues” when the music Sonny plays is jazz?
5. Re-read the final two paragraphs of the story. What has the narrator learned? What have you, as a reader, learned?