English 102 10/29/2012 The Conflicts between Siblings In the story “Sonny’s blues”, the Sonny’s brother is the narrator and main character; his name is never mentioned throughout the story. He and Sonny are the two brothers with a big difference of their ages. They don’t spend too much time with each other since they grow up. They have different world. The narrator is a high school algebra teacher and family man. Sunny is through his brother’s eyes, as a quiet, introspective person with a tendency to withdraw inside himself. Sonny is also described by the narrator as wild, but not crazy.
He takes drugs which led him to jail. He wants to be a musician because of his passion for jazz. The narrator wishes his brother to have a regular and stable job as himself, but doesn’t work unsteadily as a musician. Sunny doesn’t finish school, so he is hard to find a job which is same as his brother’s thought. He doesn’t have too many work choices like other black youths during the years. Sunny and his brother have different life styles. The narrator promises their mother to take care of Sunny, but he thinks he does not do it well. They have different philosophy and different understanding of career paths.
After the narrator’s daughter dies, the narrator and Sunny talk to each other. The narrator finally understands of Sonny’s pursuit of music. In the story “Everyday use”, Dee is oldest daughter of “Mama” and sister to Maggie. She is a educated, worldly, and deeply determined girl; she gets everything what she wants. Maggie is the younger daughter who stays with Mama while Dee goes to school. She wants to stay with her mother because she is an unintelligent and unattractive girl. Dee wants to escape from the village, and she always dresses herself attractively.
Sibling rivalry through out of both stories. In “Sonny’s Blues”, the narrator wishes his brother have consistent life same as his. He thinks he is older than Sonny, so he has more life experiences. He should take care of his brother because Sonny has dealing with drugs. “That last conversation between Baldwin’s narrator and his mother suggests that he should be his brother’s keeper, but the narrator has failed miserably at that duty, which is apparent in the telling opening sentence of “Sonny’s Blues”: “I read about it [Sonny’s arrest] in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work”.
If the narrator had to rely on a newspaper report to become aware of Sonny’s trouble, he could not have been keeping his promise to his mother to care for his younger brother. Sonny did not even bother to call his older brother after the arrest. ” (THE BIBLICAL FOUNDATION OF JAMES BALDWIN’S “SONNY’S BLUES” Page6 by James Tackach) The narrator doesn’t know sonny is not a kid anymore. Sonny chooses to be a jazz musician is not an impulsive decision since he has grown up. Sonny wants to escape from the Harlem, so he is not the young man who messes up his own life.
In the “Everyday Use”, the sibling rivalry still exists. Even though, Maggie is a compliant girl, Dee still wants to beat her from everywhere. She is a strong-minded girl and leads Maggie around by the nose. In their family, Dee represents educational, fashionable, self-confident person, but Maggie is a diffident, low-pitched, awkward girl. Maggie values the family quilts for their sentiment and usefulness. She learned how to quilt from her grandmother and aunt who made the quilts. Her mother has been saving the quilts for Maggie to use after she is married.
The quilts are meant to be used and appreciated every day. Maggie hints that she sees the quilts as a reminder of her grandmother and aunt when she says, “I can’t remember them without the quilts”. The conflicts of brothers and sisters relationships are the major points in both of the stories. In the “Sonny’s Blues”, Sonny always against his older brother, he gives up from the school, he takes drugs like other black youth around the neighborhood. When he decides to be a musician, his brother thinks he will be the same as their father who is a drunken corrupt man died when Sonny was fifteen years old.
There is a big gap between two brothers. Sonny leaves their house, drops out of school, and joins the navy. They both get back from the war and live in New York for a while. They would see each other intermittently, and whenever they meet they would fight. Because of these fights, they do not talk to each other for a very long time. After the narrator talks about Gracie and her polio affliction, the narrator decided to write to Sonny. It seems that the narrator could better understand his brother now. In the “Everyday use”, Maggie and Dee have unique personalities. Dee values the family quilts.
She thinks the quilts as priceless objects to own and display. Dee believes that she can appreciate the value of the quilts more than Maggie. Maggie is nervous about her sister’s visit. In fact, Dee’s arrival makes Maggie so uncomfortable that she tries to flee to the safety of the house. When Maggie is unable to confront Dee about the quilts, she gives them to Dee because she used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her sister. In both stories, the older siblings burden responsibility to the youngers. Sonny’s brother thinks he has responsibility because of the promise to her mother.
He tries to talk to Sonny about the life style and career choices. He asks Sonny what he wants to do, and Sonny replies that he wants to be a jazz musician and play the piano. The narrator does not understand this dream and doesn’t think it is good enough for Sonny. They also try to figure out his living arrangement for the remainder of his high school career. The subject leads to an argument. Sonny calls his brother ignorant because the narrator doesn’t know who Charlie Parker is. Sonny argues that he does not want to finish high school or live at Isabel’s parents’ house.
However, they find a compromise. Isabel’s parents have a piano, which Sonny can play whenever he wants, provided he goes to school. Sonny agrees with the idea. He stays at Isabel’s house and goes to school sometimes. When he gets home, he constantly plays the piano. He goes to Greenwich Village, and hanging with his jazz friends who are most likely doing drugs. Once Isabel’s parents find this out, Sonny leaves their house, drops out of school, and joins the navy. The narrator objects to his brother to be a jazz musician because he loves his brother.
He doesn’t want Sonny waste time to an unstable job and stay with druggies. Even though he misunderstands Sonny’s choice, he performs the responsibility by his thought exactly. Dee is a progressive model for her younger sister. She wants to increase the life quality of the family. “She washed us in a river of make-believe, burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know. Pressed us to her with the serious way she read, to shove us away at just the moment, like dimwits, we seemed about to understand. ”(page279) Dee tries to make the family better.
She wants her mother and sister to have more education. She knows her younger sister’s personality. She tries to stimulate her sister, and led Maggie escape from the village to the city, but Maggie wants to stay. Dee is done the best she can in her knowledge. In contrast, the solutions of their conflicts are different. Sonny and his brother get closer at the end of the story. By playing jazz, Sonny is able to ease or relieve his suffering from the childhood. They go to the jazz club in Greenwich Village. He hears Sonny play the piano. It makes him understand that Sonny has the soul of the music.
The narrator realizes how revered Sonny is there. The narrator sends a cup of scotch and milk up to the piano for Sonny, and they share a brief connecting moment. His brother finally understands that Sonny is able to turn his suffering into something worthwhile by playing the piano. Dee and Maggie are not lucky like the two brothers. Dee still keeps her own style and Maggie too. There is no solution for the conflicts of their sibling relationships. Maggie is content with her simple life, while Dee wants to have fine things. Maggie is nervous and intimidated by Dee, who is bold and selfish.
Maggie values the emotion of the family quilts, while Dee wants to display them as a symbol of her heritage. The case is solved by their mother, but the contradictions between two sisters are still there. In the two stories, the conflicts of siblings are the most attractive events. The narrator and Sonny don’t have too much conversation because they have really different ages. When the narrator has a job, Sonny is still a kid. Sonny is not old enough to understand the things which his brother worries about. Since Sonny grows up, he knows what kind of job he wants.
Unfortunately, his brother still thinks Sonny just wants to play but not to work. Finally, they solve the problems by the communication and understanding. The two sisters’ conflicts come from their opposite character. Dee looks forward to a rich life and gains attention from other people. She doesn’t want to stay at an old house without a real window. Maggie is afraid to leave her mother and where she used to live. She decides to be a house girl. In conclusion, the problems from siblings are because of the less understanding to each other. If they build up more connections and trust each other, those problems are easily to get rid of.