What are the two men doing in Toni Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird"? Who do they work for?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two men in Toni Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockin Bird" work for the county government and are on a mission to save the county some money by trying to prove giving out food stamps is not necessary.

We learn the men work for the county when the first man using the camera approaches Granny. He is surprised by her cold reception, having expected her to be very obliging. When she challenges his idea to film her home, family, and belongings, he stops to explain, "We're filming for the county," and asks, "Mind if we shoot a bit around here?" When she continues to be disobliging, telling him she does mind him filming her home and commanding him to turn off the camera, he continues to explain that he and his partner are filming for the "food stamp campaign." At this point in the story, the reader might think he and his partner are filming in order to document the dire need for food stamps. However, he next says something very offensive that reveals his true motive for wanting to film Granny's property:

I see you grow your own vegetables ... . If more folks did that, see, there'd be no need--

Though he is stopped from continuing to speak by Granny's facial expression, the reader can easily tell he was about to say there would be no need for food stamps. In other words, the two men are not there filming out of a charitable desire to document evidence that will help move the food stamp campaign forward but rather out of the desire to prove to the county that there is no need for food stamps. The men clearly feel a sense of disdain for Granny and people of her socioeconomic class, probably due to racial prejudices, and want to prove to the county that the government does not need to waste money by giving food stamps to the poor since the men wrongfully feel that people of Granny's socioeconomic class are doing just fine on their own.

Read the study guide:
Blues Ain't No Mockingbird

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