What were the literary style and settings of Your Blues Ain't Like Mine by Bebe Campbell?

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huntress eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Literary style" refers to how an author uses words, such as her word choice, sentence structure, figurative language, and sentence arrangement. Campbell's is Old Southern, giving Your Blues Ain't Like Mine an easy, back-woods flavor. For example, the similes she chooses are country references, such as how terror struck Armstrong "like a lash across the back" (40), Lily is described as "standing at the door, peeking inside the pool room with the exhilarated, frightened look of a girl sneaking her first drink behind a barn" (13), and Floyd hears Jake's voice "pouring out like syrup from a bottle" (17). Such similes do not let you forget the simple country setting--rural Mississippi. 

In addition, Campbell's dialogue captures the education and ethnicity of the characters without feeling awkward or strange. Armstrong, a 15-year-old African American boy visiting from Chicago, talks smack but speaks English well. While he's playing pool, he tells his friend Darnell, "Boy, I'm gon' beat you like you stole something" (9). He still has some dialect, but it doesn't compare to the roughness of the poor Southern blacks' language, such as Jake's: "Mr. Floyd, he was talking it [French] to your wife" (14), and his ubiquitous "Yassuh." Floyd's language is equally untutored: After he tells Armstrong to leave his pool hall, he thinks, You always gotta hit a nigger what steps outta line (15). By comparison, Armstrong--who speaks English well and even knows some French phrases--is clearly well-educated.

The setting of the precipitating event--Armstrong's murder--is still-segregated Hopewell, Mississippi--a rural town--on the eve of the Civil Rights Movement. Chicago, where Armstrong grew up, is already integrated, so he is confused when his grandmother forces him to step aside to let a white man pass (in Mississippi) and is angry that he is forbidden to sit next to a white person on a bus. Some of the action also takes place in Chicago, where Armstrong's parents, Wydell and Delotha, live. 

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Your Blues Ain't Like Mine

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