by James Baldwin
As a genre, literary fiction depends a great deal on characters, and we think it's the characters that drive the story of "Sonny's Blues." It's true that the story is about music and drugs and family conflict, but in the end we think these all contribute to the creation of really well-developed and fleshed-out characters. We get to know intimately what's going in inside these characters (literary folks would say that Baldwin creates psychological depth) and it's their inner turmoil that propels the plot. Yes, Sonny gets arrested for doing drugs, but this seems secondary to why he does drugs in the first place. And yes, the narrator makes the kind gesture of sending Sonny a drink at the end of the story. But the bigger deal is the fact that he's achieved a new understanding of his brother. It's true that a lot happens in this story (Sonny's arrest, his time in the Navy, Grace's death), but we think these events are really tools of characterization and that's why we would classify "Sonny's Blues" as literary fiction.