Sonny’s Blues

The Narrator’s Mother Character Analysis

The narrator’s mother is not alive in “Sonny’s Blues,” but the narrator remembers her at length in the middle of the story. She is described as a wise and caring woman who took on the problems and sorrows of her family; this is best shown when she tells the narrator about his father’s troubles, and admits that she was the only one he ever talked to about it. Significantly, the narrator’s mother also makes the narrator promise her that he will keep Sonny out of trouble and always be there for him. This shows her great insight into her sons and her deep caring for them; the promise ultimately helps not only Sonny, but also the narrator, because it keeps him from allowing his strained relationship with Sonny to persist and forces him to become more compassionate.

The Narrator’s Mother Quotes in Sonny’s Blues

The Sonny’s Blues quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator’s Mother or refer to The Narrator’s Mother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Cycles of Suffering Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of Sonny’s Blues published in 1995.
Sonny’s Blues Quotes

“He says he never in his life seen anything as dark as that road after the lights of that car had gone away.”

Related Characters: The Narrator’s Mother (speaker), The Narrator’s Father, The Narrator’s Father’s Brother
Related Symbols: Darkness
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

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“I ain’t telling you all this,” she said, “to make you scared or bitter or to make you hate nobody. I’m telling you this because you got a brother. And the world ain’t changed.”

Related Characters: The Narrator’s Mother (speaker), The Narrator, Sonny
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

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“You got to hold on to your brother,” she said, “and don’t let him fall, no matter what it looks like is happening to him and no matter how evil you gets with him. You going to be evil with him many a time. But don’t you forget what I told you, you hear?…You may not be able to stop nothing from happening. But you got to let him know you’s there.”

Related Characters: The Narrator’s Mother (speaker), The Narrator, Sonny
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

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I saw my mother’s face again, and felt, for the first time, how the stones of the road she had walked on must have bruised her feet. I saw the moonlit road where my father’s brother died. And it brought something else back to me, and carried me past it, I saw my little girl again and felt Isabel’s tears again, and I felt my own tears begin to rise. And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Narrator’s Mother, The Narrator’s Father’s Brother, Isabel, Grace
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Narrator’s Mother Character Timeline in Sonny’s Blues

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator’s Mother appears in Sonny’s Blues. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Sonny’s Blues
Family Bonds Theme Icon
...the story then jumps backward, with the narrator recalling the last time he saw his mother alive. This was when he came home from the army for his father’s funeral, and... (full context)
Cycles of Suffering Theme Icon
Family Bonds Theme Icon
Passion, Restraint, and Control Theme Icon
Salvation and Relief Theme Icon
The narrator’s mother recalls that the brother used to play guitar and sing at different places. One Saturday... (full context)
Family Bonds Theme Icon
Passion, Restraint, and Control Theme Icon
Salvation and Relief Theme Icon
Then, after his mother dies, the narrator gets a furlough from the army to attend her funeral. Remembering his... (full context)
Cycles of Suffering Theme Icon
Passion, Restraint, and Control Theme Icon
...knowing that his actions were just digging him farther in. He confesses that when their mother died he wanted to leave Harlem to get away from the drugs, but once he... (full context)
Cycles of Suffering Theme Icon
Family Bonds Theme Icon
Passion, Restraint, and Control Theme Icon
Salvation and Relief Theme Icon
...of generations back—he says he can feel how the stones on the road bruised his mother’s feet, and he can see the moonlit night when his father’s brother died. He begins... (full context)