The most important incident that occurs in Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine is the murder of Armstrong Todd, an innocent black boy, by three ignorant and despicable whites. This tragedy occurs early in a novel that spans three decades. The author’s primary focus is on the long-lasting results of that tragedy in the lives of the survivors.
Campbell begins her novel by tracing the events that lead up to Armstrong’s death. When Lily Cox unwisely enters the pool hall owned by her husband Floyd, she makes it possible for the black bartender, Jake, to plant in Floyd’s mind the idea that somehow Armstrong has directed a French phrase toward Lily. Later, when Jake makes sure that Floyd’s father and brother hear about the episode, Armstrong’s fate is sealed. The three Coxes find Armstrong alone, beat him, and give Floyd the honor of shooting him.
In the next two chapters, Campbell moves the scene to Chicago in order to show Delotha Todd, Armstrong’s mother, as the pretty, high-spirited woman she was before she had to deal with her son’s death. She feels vaguely guilty about enjoying a respite from parental responsibility. Wydell Todd is also thinking about his son, but he is too drunk to concentrate on that subject or anything else.
The next section of the novel deals with the immediate aftermath of the murder. Black customers stop patronizing Floyd’s bar, thus costing the bartender his job and Floyd his business. The town’s businessmen are worried primarily about the image of Hopewell. The Coxes are worried about being punished, particularly after the businessmen decide that Floyd will make a good scapegoat. Thanks in part to Lily’s perjured testimony, however, Floyd is acquitted, and even though Hopewell has become polarized, the community pretends to go back to normal.
It is a tribute to Campbell’s artistry that the characters she has presented in these early, fast-paced chapters are interesting enough to maintain suspense throughout the rest of...
(The entire section is 823 words.)