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Sonny's Blues vs Why I Live at the Po

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“Sonny’s Blues” VS “Why I Live at the P.O.” Comparing and contrasting two stories can be a difficult task when one does not understand the plot of a story. Plot is simply the arrangement of the action, which can consist of any type of event or a series of events that go on in the story. It is also important to know about the structure of a plot to understand what is going on in the story. A plot consists of action, along with exposition, rising action, turning point (climax), falling action and a conclusion (Booth, et.al, 2006, p57). I chose to compare and contrast “Sonny’s Blues” and “Why I live at the P.O.” because both of their plots revolve around siblings and their struggle to accept each other. In “Sonny’s Blues” brother is struggling with Sonny’s addiction to “horse” and in “Why I live at the P.O.” Sister is dealing with the jealousy she has towards her sister, Stella-Rondo.

James Baldwin uses the plot of “Sonny’s Blues” to show how difficult it can be to reestablish a relationship with family after years of no contact. He uses a difficult time such as Sonny’s addiction to heroine to have his brother want to be a part of his recovery. Brother finds out that Sonny has gotten into trouble and is scared about the situation along with scared for Sonny. He is scared because he had his suspicions but he did not want to know anything about it. Brother just wanted to believe Sonny “… was wild, but he wasn’t crazy” (Baldwin, 82). He had always believed his brother, “…always been a good boy, he hadn’t ever turned hard or evil or disrespectful, the way kids can, so quick, so quick, especially in Harlem” (Baldwin, 82). Brother believes that the first time Sonny did heroin he was not much older than the kids in his algebra class at the high school. He cannot seem to accept the fact that his brother turned into a heroin addict and he had nothing to do with it. He seems to think that if he would have seen Sonny doing drugs that he would have been able to prevent him from going down the path that he ended up going down. Brother cannot accept that there was nothing he could do.

Eventually Sonny enters a treatment program for his addiction, and Brother is unsure if he should try and reestablish a relationship with Sonny or not. He is scared that Sonny somehow blames him for his addiction to heroin and does not want to really face that fact. After school Brother runs into an old friend from the neighborhood in which they grew up and he tells Brother that he should write to Sonny and start to reconnect with him. Brother did not write to Sonny for a long time but he eventually does after his little girl passes away. He receives a letter back from Sonny and it makes him “feel like a bastard” (Baldwin, 85). In his letter back to Brother, Sonny expresses how he really need to hear from Brother and how he know that writing him would be a really hard task because he knows how much his actions hurt the family. His letter lets Brother know that it had nothing to do with Sonny being a musician and nothing that has happened is Brother’s fault.

After Sonny gets out of rehab Brother meets him in New York when he comes back, and brings him to his house to spend time with his family. The two brothers joke around about old times and tell stories about how things were when they were kids. They tell stories about their deceased parents and what it was like growing up with them. While telling these stories Brother wonders if he is going to be able to keep a relationship with Sonny and if Sonny will stay clean. He is worried that because Sonny has chosen to continue with his music if he will go back to using drugs. There is nothing that Brother can do except be there for Sonny and if he goes back down the path of using drug to help get Sonny back on the right track. Brother needs to keep an open mind and know that things change and people can change and just because he is going to continue performing does not mean that he will go back to using drugs. I think over time that these two brothers can grow closer together and help to heal each other along with learning about the road Sonny has in front of him to being a clean and sober person.

Eudora Welty gives the reader the back story of why Sister is living at the P.O. She gives the readers all the events leading up to Sister moving out by having Sister tell the story to others at the P.O. By giving these events is shows, Sister is very jealous of Stella-Rondo who has always gotten the attention of the family and Sister does not get the attention she thinks that she should have. Stella-Rondo gets attention even if it is in a negative manner. Sister does not seem to get that attention and is very jealous of Stella-Rondo because of this. Sister knows that if she would have done same of the same things that Stella Rondo has done she would have gotten in trouble. Stella-Rondo had left home after getting married and Sister was getting along with Mama, Papa-Daddy, and Uncle Rondo really good, until Stella-Rondo came home after separating with her husband. When Stella-Rondo came back home she brought a child that she had with her husband. No one in the family knew that she had a child and they were shocked to find out that she had one. Mama was shocked and told Stella-Rondo “Here you had this marvelous blonde child and never so much as wrote your mother a word about it…I’m thoroughly ashamed of you” (Welty, 124). Sister knows that this is not the case and that in fact mama is thrilled to have a grandchild. Sister also knows that if she would have never told mama that she had a child, mama would have actually meant that she was ashamed of her. Stella-Rondo seems to bring drama with her when she comes back home, she starts telling Papa-Daddy that sister does not understand or like that he cut off his beard, which is completely false. Sister believes that Stella-Rondo only knows how to create drama and get up and leave and not look back. When Sister questions the health of Stella-Rondo’s child she offends Stella-Rondo which put the family against Sister. Sister does not understand why it is always this way and why it is this way when mama started asking the questions to Sister. Sister seems to be the outsider in the family and starts to feel unwelcomed within her own family. Sister tells her family this and that she is moving to the post office and they all tell her that they will never step foot in the post office again. It will only happen over their dead bodies. Sister tries to convince them that they will eventually need to step foot in the post office and when they do they will see her. They remain adamant that they will never step foot in the post office and will do everything in their power to keep that a promise. Sister does not want contact with her family and does not want to hear any more of her lies. Sister says she is happy and does not need her family to be a part of her life any longer.

Both Brother and Sister struggle with their family dynamics and their place within their family. Brother is struggle with how Sonny came to be a drug addict and that he could not have done anything to prevent him from becoming one. He is also struggling on how he can help Sonny in his recovery process, and with doubts that he will remain sober. Sister has decided that she is better off without her family because no matter what she does she is considered the black sheep. Even when she brings up valid points about Stella-Rondo’s history she is pushed out and they believe Stella-Rondo over Sister. Brother and Sister are both still trying to figure out where they stand within their families, but they are at different places in figuring this out. Brother knows that he has to be there to help Sonny, whereas Sister wants nothing to do with her family. Both Brother and Sister should try and connect to their siblings but it is up to them to decide whether or not they will connect to their siblings. Brother needs to know that he did everything he could and that the drug use of Sonny has nothing to do with him. Sonny must have a void he has been trying to fill with drugs, but it does not have to do with him. Sister needs to know that Stella-Rondo most likely will have everything handed to her no matter what and that there’s nothing she can do to change it. Sister needs to be able to accept this fact and until she does she is better off not having a relationship with her family. Both of these stories are connected by the siblings being unable to relate to each other and have underlying jealousy issues with one another. Brother is unsure if Sonny will stay sober, and Sister is unsure if things will ever change in her relationship with Stella-Rondo.

It seems to me that both authors’ have different view points on how to mend a relationship with their families. James Baldwin that wrote “Sonny’s Blues” thinks that the two brothers should reconnect and try to trust one another again. Whereas Eudora Welty, author of “Why I Live at the P.O.” believes that the way to heal and possibly one day have a relationship with their family is to separate from them and have not communication to them. These two authors take a different approach on how to mend a relationship with a family member. In “Sonny’s Blues”, James Baldwin uses two brothers that are reconnecting after years of being separated because they chose to go down different paths in their lives. In Eudora Welty’s story she shows conflict between family members and the conflict is so great that one of the family members leaves and no longer wants to have a relationship with them. Both stories are in different places as far as the healing process for the siblings, in one story the siblings are reconnecting and reestablishing their relationships. While the other story is about a family that has problems and these problems are too great for the sister to handle so she decides to cease her relationship with her family for the time being, at least. Both stories are about families and their struggles, but they are at different places in their healing processes. Both authors seem to have possibly dealt with some of the same situations in their own lives, and because of this you can see it within their stories.

References

Baldwin, J. (1957). Sonny’s blues.

Booth, A., Hunter, J. P., & Mays, K. J. (2006). The norton introduction to literature. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company.

Welty, E. (1941). Why i live at the p.o.…...

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