Blues Ain't No Mockingbird

by Toni Cade Bambara

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What are the two men's opinions of Granny Cain in "Blues Ain't No Mockingbird"?

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The two men, who are shooting a film ‘‘about food stamps’’ for the county move away after Granny comes outside, but they continue filming anyway as they have no respect for her wish to be left alone.

As the grandchildren play outside, they notice the filmmakers, who have been moving around and then enter the property of the Cains. After Granny comes outside one of the men asks her if she minds if they "shoot a bit around here?"

"I do indeed," said Granny with no smile. Smilin man was smiling up a storm....But he didn't seem to have another word to say, so he and the camera man backed on out the yard, but you could hear the camera buzzin still. "Suppose you just shut that machine off," said Granny, real low through her teeth, and took a step down the porch....

Then, the man with the camera points the camera directly at her and says, "Now, Aunty...." This use of the term "Aunty" is meant to be a respectful address to an older African-American, but it is still patronizing. Clearly, then, the men are disrespectful to Granny as they pretend to be friendly and polite, but they completely disregard her wishes that they not trespass upon the Cain property and not treat them as objects to be photographed.
And, as further evidence of their disrespect, these men sneak behind Granddaddy Cain when he returns from having captured a chicken hawk and "buzz him" with the camera. Finally, it is not until Mr. Cain overpowers them with his threatening size and seizes the camera, breaking it apart and saying, "This is our own place" that the men depart. 

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What do the men think of Granny Cain in Toni Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockin' Bird"?  

In Toni Cade Bambara's "Blues Ain't No Mockin' Bird," it is evident the men trying to film Granny and her house see Granny as their subordinate and as a worthless human being.

Though skin color is never mentioned in the story, it is evident through the dialect used by the characters that the story is one of race relations set in the South. The men are from the county and are filming for the "food stamp campaign," and only white men would be working for the county at the time period in which the story is set; since the story was written in 1971, it could be set in 1971 or earlier. If the men are white men working for the county, then we know the Cains are an African American family living on the outskirts of town, and the men want to film the Cains' lifestyle since the Cains are some of the county's citizens who would be benefiting from the new food stamp program. Yet, the men aren't there to prove to the county there is a need for food stamps; they're there to do the exact opposite, which shows their lack of respect for Granny and her socioeconomic class.

When one of the men notes that Granny has her own vegetable garden and asserts, "If more folks did that, see, there'd be no need--," the reader is able to deduce the men are filming in order to prove that the poor aren't really as poor as the county thinks and there is no reason for the county to spend money on food stamps. The men's true motive for filming shows us that they see Granny, and others of her socioeconomic class, as unimportant human beings and feel a sense of superiority over Granny and others.

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