In the story "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird what characterization technique is the author using?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird," Toni Bambara uses the technique of indirect characterization for the narrator and the techniques of both direct and indirect characterization for other characters.

Indirect characterization occurs when dialogue, actions or character interaction and reactions reveal the character. Here is a quotation that shows the author's use of direct characterization for other characters:

Tyrone and Terry, were swingin so high out of sight we forgot we were waitin our turn on the tire. Cathy jumped up and came down hard on her heels and started tap-dancin.

More importantly, Bambara employs the technique of a limited third-person narrator, the granddaughter. Because of this particular point of view, the humor of the granddaughter's characterization is enjoyable and effective in its satire, while her descriptive characterization of the others in the narrative is both credible and delightful.

The use of this particular form of narration makes readers feel as though they are inside the girl's mind, participating in events and perceiving them as she does. This technique lends verisimilitude to the mocking perception of the cameraman and the reporter. Certainly, it allows the humor and characterization of the young narrator to serve the dual purpose of making the narrative enjoyable while at the same time cogent and useful in serving the theme of this story. For example, her naming of the men "Smilin" and "Camera" removes from them any dignity as in the scene in which they react to the hawk who tries to rescue its mate; also, her running description aptly captures their foolish behavior:

The mate beatin the air overhead and clutchin for hair, for heads, for landin space.
     The camera man duckin and bendin and runnin and fallin, juigglin the camera and scared. And Smilin jumpin up and down swipin at the huge bird, tryin to bring the hawk down with his raggedy ole cap.

Viewed through the ingenuous perception of the young girl who provides the characterization of the others in the narrative as well, readers are allowed to appreciate the satire and to form their own deeper judgments about the personages of this story and the thematic point of their intrusion onto Granny and Mister Cain's property.

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Blues Ain't No Mockingbird

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