Although Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine is a third-person narrative, Campbell does not write as an omniscient narrator. Instead, she works from within the mind of one character after another, describing events as each character perceives them and at the same time revealing the thoughts and memories of that character. From the opening scene, in which Lily wonders about her own response to the plantation workers’ songs she hears in the distance, to the final one, in which Wydell realizes that he has broken through to his rebellious son, the most important actions in the novel occur inside the minds of the characters.
Each of Campbell’s characters begins with an inheritance. Lily, Floyd, and Clayton, for example, are what they are partly because of their families. Because in her childhood she often saw her father beat her mother and was herself molested by an uncle, Lily assumes that men have the right to dominate women. Similarly, from his father Floyd has absorbed his definition of manhood as well as his knowledge that he does not measure up to his father’s standard. Unlike Lily and Floyd, Clayton has rejected the value judgments of his family, but he, too, is ruled by them.
Campbell is not a determinist but a moralist; therefore, her characters face choices, make them, and change, for better or for worse, as the novel proceeds. Some, such as Floyd, become increasingly dominated by evil. Others, such as Ida, become increasingly...
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