We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Sonny's Blues

Sonny's Blues


by James Baldwin

Sonny's Blues Theme of Suffering

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.

Questions About Suffering

  1. Do you feel that one character deals better with suffering than the others?
  2. Does the story suggest that suffering is something handed down from one generation to the next?
  3. Is one type of suffering more difficult to deal with than others?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

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.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...