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Titles in literature are often very significant, and the title of Toni Cade Bambara's story "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird" is no exception. For those from the South, the mockingbird is a common sight; so, like the Finches in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, this bird's meaning is well-known. It is a rather large bird that imitates the song of other birds, singing much of the day. It is gentle and "sings its heart out" in imitation, but it is also very territorial and fiercely defends its nest.
The Blues also generate from the South; they began as an expression of the displaced African-American person. The lyrics of the blues address life's troubles and people's personal relationships. Very emotive, the blues are genuine expressions of feelings--They are not mockeries of real feeling. In Toni Bambara's story, what Granny feels is real and should not be mocked. When these feelings of Granny--her need for privacy, her demand for respect, and her pride are genuine; they are no mockery. Her reaction to the intrusion of the white filmmakers, indeed, expresses the meaning of the title.
Although many people commonly think of the music form "Blues" as musical tales of sorrow and bad luck, it really encompasses all the emotions, experiences, and ordeals of life. As such, one does not truly understand the blues until one has experienced it. The key to understanding the title lies in the story Granny tells the children. The moral is simple: Everyone who shows interest in you is not necessarily interested in you. The reporter who shows up at the bridge does not care whether the man lives or dies. He simply wants to be the first to get the story. However, that lesson is lost on the younger children, particularly the twins, who only wonder if the man jumped.
Granddaddy Cain's silent, emphatic handling of "Camera and Smilin" provides the children with an indelible image of self-respect in action. Moreover, his actions towards the men are driven in part by Granny's "moanin," which is a type of wordless singing prevalent in the Black church of the rural south (and is closely related to the blues). Through her "moanin," the old frustrations from their previous residences are communicated to her husband, and he shows with finality how protective he is of his family.
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