The three significant symbols in Toni Cade Bambara’s “Blues Ain’t No Mockingbird” are the ladle, the chicken hawks, and the hammer.
The author introduces Granny as she is ladling rum over her Christmas cakes. The author then proceeds to describe what Granny is ladling prior to each of the family’s moves. Granny ladled something special when they lived in Judson’s woods, at the Cooper place, and when they lived at the dairy. However, inevitably, they moved away from each place. Ladles can signify the need to seek happiness and that is exactly what Granny does each time she moves on.
Chicken hawks are birds known as pests who prey on barnyard fowl. In this story, the chicken hawks represent the two men from the county who come filming on the Cain’s land. They ask questions that Granny finds inappropriate. They film the farm and the family without permission. When Granddaddy returns he has one chicken hawk, who was stalking the Cain’s farm, over his shoulder. The chicken hawk suffers a slow death after Granddaddy uses the hammer to nail it violently it to the barn. When the second hawk comes looking for his mate, Granddaddy kills him with one swift throw of his hammer. He deals with the men swiftly when they come “buzzing” around him.
In literature, hammers often represent a strong, masculine force, which is an apt description for Granddaddy. The author describes him as tall, and king-like in mannerisms. He uses the hammer to nail the first hawk to the barn door and to kill the second one. He uses his imposing presence to get rid of the annoying reporters. He simply puts out his hand and the cameraman places the camera in it. Mr. Cain dismantles the camera before handing it back and telling the men they are in Mrs. Cain’s flower garden. They high tail it off the property.