What is the style versus the tone in "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird?"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The style of "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird" seems more realistic and appropriate to the theme than the tone of Toni Cade Bambara's short story.

"Blues Ain't No Mockingbird" is told from the first-person point of view of a girl, the granddaughter of the main characters in the conflict, and despite the seriousness of this conflict to her grandparents, her narration is humorous in tone. In style, on the other hand, Bambara creates authenticity through her use of dialect. One can argue, then, that the style is perhaps more realistic, but, because of the humorous narration, the story is less unsettled, thereby allowing a calmer reader to enjoy the narrative and comfortably arrive at his/her own conclusions about the author's serious message. Humor is also a great ingredient in remembrance.

Poet Lucille Clifton said of Bambara's stories in Gorilla, My Love, from which "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird" comes:

She has captured it all, how we really talk, how we really are; and done it with love and respect. I laughed until I cried, then laughed again.

There is clearly a realism to the narrative. The children do not fully understand the situation, and this is why the young narrator employs humor as she witnesses the interlopers' behavior as merely foolish. Yet, at the same time, this girl unwittingly captures through comical descriptions of the white men she calls "Smilin" and "the camera man" the underlying seriousness of the situation as these men mock the grandparents by their intrusion, their questions, and their invasive filming.

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.

But this time the "great hand" takes the camera and smashes it. Frantically, the camera man tries to protect his film from light exposure. "Whatca tryin to do?"

"You standin in the misses' flower bed," say Granddaddy. "This is our own place."

The narrator perceives Cathy for what she is, a silly child, yet she is not completely deceived about the significance of this moment.

The two men look at him, then at each other, then back at the mess in the cameraman's chest, and they just back off.

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