The setting of the Sonny’s Blues is in the Harlem, New York. An African-American dominated suburb, the levels of poverty, crime, drug abuse and broken families are appalling. All these challenges and obstacles have contributed to a life of frustration and despair among the African-American community living in Harlem. Many men, old and young, have resorted to drugs abuse, crime, and loss of hope. The African-American community has been neglected by the society drifting into hopelessness and self-destruction. Meanwhile, women assume the role of protecting and caring persons for their families.
Sonny’s mother is one woman who offers not only protection to his sons, but also emotional comfort to her husband. Her husband, who lost his brother through a hit-and-run car accident turns emotionally unstable. His wife nurtures him from an emotional imbalance to stability. She also is seen obsessed with protecting his sons, especially Sonny, from the potential vices of drugs and crime in Harlem. She commanded her elder son, the narrator, to take care of his younger brother after her death. Worst mother’s fear come to pass when she dies as Sonny is trapped in drugs abuse. His brother did not offer the necessary protection to him like the mother had done.
Sonny’s wife, Isabel, is portrayed as a caring woman who offers Sonny comfort after he is released from jail. She gives Sonny care just in the same way his mother did. She is more welcoming to Sonny from his confinement, more than his brother is. She is the one who could make Sonny laugh to ease his misery. She is portrayed both as caring mother and wife. The role of these two women in the Sonny’s Blues echoes the role of women in Harlem who were the custodian and pillars of a community which was under attack of poverty.
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