What is the setting of Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird? When and where does the story takes place?
Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird" appeared in a collection of her stories in 1972. It is about a black family trying to deal with a pair of white county government workers who are unwittingly infringing on their privacy and treating them disrespectfully.
The setting is not explicitly stated. All we really know is that it is rural. The family is hardworking and self-sufficient, and not at all appreciative of the invasion of its privacy by the county workers.
We have a better idea of when the story takes place. The county workers are "filmin' for the county," with a portable camera, so we know that it can't be long before the story was written (keeping in mind that the story was published in the early 70's). We also know that they are filming something about the county food stamp program, a program that began as part of the War on Poverty in the mid-sixties. So we can safely say that the setting of the story is from the mid-sixties to the very early-seventies.
Students don't always realize how important a setting is to a story. To really understand a story's theme you have to place in its proper time and place. For "Blues Ain't No Mockin' Bird" this information is important, as we know that the civil rights struggle was coalescing at that time. Bambara is looking at how this rural black family is stereotyped by others, who are surprised that they are clean and industrious and dignified.
Ironically, and perhaps intentionally, Bambara's narrator does a bit of stereotyping herself by referring to the county workers by the names of "Smilin'," and "Camera," thus basing their identity on their behavior as it relates to the family.
Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird" takes place in the front yard of a poor black family. The house and yard are surrounded by a meadow (which is where the men with cameras have spent their day) as well as a forest (woods) where Grandaddy comes home from hunting. In the front yard is a tire swing which the children of the neighborhood share and enjoy. Granny has planted a flowerbed, and there are puddles of water in the yard which are being used as entertainment for several girls. Beyond that are two images which are stereotypical of their living conditions: Granny is baking some fragrant cakes, and Grandaddy is traipsing home with a dead chicken hawk. It isn't much, but it is a place where dignity reigns.
This is obviously a typical home for a certain category of people, or the camera men wouldn't want to use it to represent the typical living conditions of a poor black family in the South.