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The central theme of “Blues Ain’t No Mockingbird” by Toni Cade Bambara is respect for others, including their social and emotional situations. A two-man crew takes pictures around the Cain’s far, stating that they are working for the county food stamp program. Granny is annoyed as they take pictures of her farm, buildings, and the children at play. The men are taking pictures without asking permission, but they assume that the Cains are the type of people who would need food stamps. They show little respect for Granny or her family, even asking for interviews. They stereotype the family and make it seem like a privilege to be included in the food stamp program.
To make a point about respect, Granny tells a story of how a photographer took pictures of a suicidal man who was trying to jump off a bridge. The photographer recorded everything and saved some of his film for what he hoped would be the money shots when the man actually jumped. There was no respect for the man, his anguished female companion, or the law enforcement personnel who were trying to provide aid. The lack of respect made Granny angry.
When Granddaddy Cain arrives home, Granny asks him to instruct the crew to get out of her flowerbed. He goes further by taking his hammer to the camera, which sends the men running. Calmly, Granddaddy cleans his shoes, and goes into the house with his quiet pride intact having taught the county crew a bit about respect.
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