What type of irony is there in the story?"Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When the men with the cameras take pictures near the Cains's place, Granny exhibits several times verbal irony in her speech. With verbal irony being the saying of one thing when actually something else is meant, Granny certainly provides several verbally ironic statements in the beginning of the story, "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird."

  • One instance of Granny's verbal irony occurs when she tells the children to "Go tell that man we ain't a bunch of trees."  Her meaning, of course, is that she does not want the men taking pictures of them as though they are inanimate, or treating them as such.
  • When the men approach and one says, "We thought we'd get a shot or two of the house and everything and then--"  Granny cuts him off with "Good mornin," with her tone indicating anything but friendliness. 
  • As the men ask to take pictures, they seek to ingratiate themselves by saying "Nice things here" as he buzzes his camera over the yard; however, with irony, Granny retorts, "I don't know about the thing, the it, and the stuff."
  • Then, when one man calls her "aunty," she again replies with irony, " I don't know about the thing, the it, and the stuff,...Just people here is what I tend to consider."  Here the implication is that she resents the men filming their yard as though what they possess is something to be regarded as a curiousity--"stuff" to be laughed at or scorned or mocked.
  • Granny relates the sad tale of a man who contemplates suicide while a person callously films the agonizing moments as the man's woman stands by, and the minister and the policeman try to talk with him. About the person filming Granny comments, "This person takin up the whole roll of film practically.  But savin a few, of course."  Granny really means that the person is so cruel that he/she saves film in case the person jumps, so this tragic moment can also be recorded.  (After all, that footage will sell.)
  • Finally, when Granny calls to Mister Cain to "get them persons out of my flower bed..." she means instead to get the camera men off the property.

In her essay, Black Women Writers, Ruth Elizabeth Burks writes that Bambara considers the limits of language to convey independence.  Clearly, with her verbal irony, Granny conveys her fierce independence and desire for privacy in "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird."  

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