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‘‘Camera’’ is how the narrator refers to the cameraman who is filming for a county project on food stamps. The camera on his shoulder is so much a part of him that when he hands it to Granddaddy Cain he keeps his shoulder ‘‘high like the camera was still there or needed to be.’’ When Granddaddy deliberately damages the camera, Camera gathers up the pieces and holds them ‘‘like he’s protectin a kitten from the cold.’’

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Granddaddy Cain is Granny’s husband, whom she always refers to as ‘‘Mister Cain’’ in keeping with rural Southern protocols. Although he speaks only a few lines in the story, he performs its most dramatic action. When he returns from hunting, carrying a bloody chicken hawk over his shoulder, Granny asks him to get the cameramen to leave. First, however, he dispatches the hawk’s attacking mate by throwing a hammer at the swooping bird. Although he displays no anger, greeting the filmmakers calmly with a simple, ‘‘Good day, gentlemen,’’ Granddaddy Cain is a forceful presence. Cathy observes that he unnerves people because he is ‘‘tall and silent and like a king,’’ and the narrator reports that when he worked as a waiter on trains he was always referred to as ‘‘The Waiter,’’ while his colleagues were just ‘‘waiters.’’ Granddaddy gestures for the camera, and the cameraman, flustered, gives it to him. Granddaddy’s hand is huge and skilled, ‘‘a person in itself’’—holding the camera in one hand, he tears the top off of it with the other. He offers no explanation beyond the statement, ‘‘‘You standing in the misses’ flower bed . . . This is our own place,’’’ and the filmmakers leave without further protest.

Cathy is the most perceptive of the four children in the story. The narrator is impressed by her ability to understand the workings of the adult world and of the family, such as ‘‘how come we move so much,’’ even though she is a relative newcomer. The narrator’s third cousin, Cathy became a part of the family during a visit one Thanksgiving. Although no more information about her origin is offered, this suggests that Cathy may have a troubled past or a disrupted family life. Her statement that one day she will write a story situates her as the heir of the storytelling Granny and, perhaps, the predecessor of the storywriting Bambara.

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The narrator’s grandmother, Granny occupies a central position in the family. Her displeasure at the intrusive behavior of the filmmakers is at the root of the story’s theme and conflict, and her behavior towards the children, both in the story and in the recollections of the narrator, makes manifest her dominant role as teacher, caretaker, and guardian of the community. Granny also has an explosive temper and a low tolerance for patronizing and demeaning behavior; the family has moved many times ‘‘on account of people drivin Granny crazy till she’d get up in the night and start packin.’’ Her anger at the presence of the filmmakers...

(The entire section contains 786 words.)

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Critical Essays