Blues Ain't No Mockingbird

by Toni Cade Bambara
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What is the conflict in Toni Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockin' Bird"?

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One of the most dominant conflicts in Toni Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockin' Bird" is character vs. character.

Granny Cain has discovered that two men are filming the fields around her property and approaching her house with the purpose of filming her house and its surrounding grounds. Granny is instantly insulted because she feels they are violating her family's privacy and rights as human beings, as she implies when she comes out onto the porch and tells the young narrator, "Go tell that man we ain't a bunch of trees," meaning that if the Cains were only emotionless trees, the men would have every right to film them as much as they wanted.

The conflict between Granny and the two cameramen intensifies when the men approach, explain they are filming for the county, and ask permission to film her home. When Granny denies permission, the men reveal their true intentions. They are filming for the "food stamp campaign" and have noticed that Granny has her own vegetable garden. One of the men asserts, "If more folks did that, see, there'd be no need--." Though the man never finishes his sentence, the reader knows he is trying to say that if more people of Granny's socioeconomic class grew their own vegetables, then there would be no reason for the county to spend the money on food stamps for the poor. In other words, the men are there to not only exploit the impoverished suffering of people like Granny but to distort it so it no longer looks like suffering.

The character vs. character conflict continues to escalate as the men still refuse to leave and stop filming. The conflict resolves when Granddaddy Cain comes home, opens their camera to destroy their film, and orders them off the property.

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