Three significant symbols in “Blues Ain’t No Mockingbird” are Granddaddy Cain, Camera, and the hammer.
Granddaddy Cain: He symbolizes dignity, nobility, and leadership. While his co-workers were referred to as just waiters, he was held in esteem as “The Waiter.” As a leader, Granddaddy uses his hands both as a tool of comfort and protection. The narrator reminisces, “Then Granddaddy holds his hand out—this huge hand I used to sit in when I was a baby and he’d carry me through the house to my mother like I was a gift on a tray. Like he used to on the trains... And said he had engines in his feet and motors in his hands and couldn’t no train throw him off and couldn’t nobody turn him round. They were big enough for motors, his hands were. He held that one hand out all still and it gettin to be not at all a hand but a person in itself.”
Camera: Camera symbolizes invasion of privacy, exposure, and potential danger. All of Camera’s actions and words are exploitative, invasive, and threatening towards Granddaddy Cain, Granny, and their family. Camera wants to use the film to embarrass others for his own profit/gain.
The hammer: The hammer is a demonstration of strength, authority, protection, and intimidation. Granddaddy Cain uses the hammer to kill the hawks as a means of protecting his family, but he also makes sure that Camera and his associate witness it. So, when he confronts them about their taking pictures and he crushes the camera, Granddaddy’s wielding of the hammer is fresh in their mind and they retreat without much of a fight. At the end of the story, “Granddaddy picks up the hammer and jams it into the oilskin pocket” like a victorious king sheathing his sword as Granny hums in satisfied approval of her husband and Cathy dreams of someday authoring a tale “about the proper use of the hammer.”