'"You know people can't always do exactly what they want to do -”' (91). This is the attitude of the narrator towards his brother Sonny in the beginning of "Sonny's Blues” by James Baldwin. '”I think people ought to do what they want to do, what else are they alive for?”' (91). This is Sonny's attitude throughout the story. The narrator's attitude changes as he learns to understand his brother and what he is going through throughout the story. .
The parents of Sonny and the narrator died by the time Sonny was in high school. This left the narrator in a father role for Sonny. Sonny and his brother grew up in Harlem with limited options open to them. Although they had grown up in the same house under the same conditions, they have both taken away two completely different views on life. The narrator, who is an Algebra teacher, feels that life needs to be as society dictates. Sonny is a more imaginative person who does not follow his brother's beliefs. .
The narrator's view on his brother's career choice or dream is not an encouraging one. Sonny wants to be a musician; Sonny needs to be a musician. "I somehow had the feeling that being a drummer might be all right for other people but not for my brother Sonny” (90). The narrator being an Algebra teacher cannot comprehend this decision. "I simply couldn't see why on earth he'd want to spend his time hanging around nightclubs, clowning around in bandstands” (90). .
I couldn't believe it: but what I mean by that is I couldn't find any room for it anywhere inside me. I had kept it outside me for a long time. I hadn't wanted to know. I had had suspicions, but I didn't name them, I kept putting them away. I told myself that Sonny was wild, but he wasn't crazy (80).
Sonny had fallen into drugs at a young age and has had an ongoing problem with heroine. The narrator doesn't want to see this in his brother, but now has to face it.