The idea of suffering hovers inescapably over "Sonny's Blues." Every character suffers in some way – from grief, from poverty, from addiction, from limited opportunities in life. The constant presence of suffering wears the characters down, and while some are resigned to it, others continue to fight it (even if they know they can never really escape it). Suffering is expressed in multiple ways in this story – through music, through drug use, on people's faces, through the ways they interact with each other, and even through recurring nightmares. Although suffering is more immediately present for some characters, it's a part of all of their lives.
Suffering is so oppressive and ever-present in this story that it destroys everyone on some level.
Suffering can in some ways be a creative or generative force.