by James Baldwin
Sonny's Blues Theme of Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs are a central theme in "Sonny's Blues," impacting both the users and those who love them. Heroin destroys lives, families, and artistic talent. On the other hand, it also offers a momentary escape from the characters' depressing and oppressive physical environments and serves as a coping mechanism to help them deal with the human suffering that surrounds them. While Baldwin doesn't judge the characters who use drugs, he does present drug addiction as horrible, gut-wrenching, and ultimately destructive.
Questions About Drugs and Alcohol
- Does the fact that Sonny is addicted to heroin make you think differently about his character than if he were, say, an alcoholic?
- Do you think Sonny can actually beat his drug addiction?
- Is it fair for the narrator to associate jazz music with drug addiction?
Chew on This
There is no justification for Sonny's drug addiction, no matter how hard his life is.
Although we don't condone Sonny's drug use, he does a good job of explaining why he turned to drugs in the first place.