Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1992

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: The 1950’s to the 1980’s

Locale: Rural Mississippi and Chicago, Illinois

Characters DiscussedArmstrong Todd

Armstrong Your Blues Ain’t Like MineTodd, a fifteen-year-old African American boy from Chicago who is sent to stay temporarily with his grandmother in Hopewell, Mississippi. Armstrong is a good-looking, outgoing boy whose only fault, an adolescent tendency to show off, is enough to get him murdered.

Delotha Todd

Delotha Todd, his mother, a vibrant, ambitious woman who has left Hopewell for Chicago to better herself. After Armstrong’s death, she is determined to replace him with another son. This obsession wrecks her marriage and nearly ruins the life of her younger boy.

Wydell Todd

Wydell Todd, Armstrong’s father, an attractive man who loves Delotha but is overwhelmed by her. Whenever she shows more interest in her ambitions or her children than in him, Wydell drowns his sorrows in drink. When Delotha turns to him for help, as she does at the end of the novel, he can be a nurturing and responsible father.

Lily Cox

Lily Cox, a young white woman from a poor family who quit school at the age of sixteen to marry Floyd Cox. After the murder, she becomes the target of her husband’s frustrations, and eventually she is sent to a mental institution. She finally takes refuge with her daughter Doreen.

Floyd Cox

Floyd Cox, Lily’s husband, the owner of a pool hall patronized by African Americans. Floyd is a coward and a bully, governed by his fear of the whites who run his community, of his black customers, and, above all, of his father and his brother. After killing Armstrong, he loses his business and spends the rest of his life picking fights, stealing, serving time in prison, and blaming everyone but himself for his misfortunes.

Clayton Pinochet

Clayton Pinochet, the publisher of the Hopewell newspaper and the son of Stonewall Pinochet of Pinochet Plantation. A well-meaning, decent man, Clayton disapproves of his father’s rapaciousness but can defy him only by secretly aiding those he knows are right. Although he finally offers to marry his black mistress, she rejects him because she knows that he is too weak to live with his decision.

Ida Long

Ida Long, a small, young black woman who shares with Lily the dream of escaping from Hopewell. Ida is a woman of strong convictions who stays in Hopewell only to care for her foster father. She finally demands and gets her rightful share of her white father’s property.

BibliographyChadwell, Faye A. Review of Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, by Bebe Moore Campbell. Library Journal 117 (July, 1992): 120. Admires Campbell’s skill in showing the complicated social structure of a small southern town, every member of which is touched by Armstrong’s death. The work is open-ended, allowing for “recovery or recurrence.”Edgerton, Clyde. “Medicine for Broken Souls.” The New York Times Book Review, September 20, 1992, 13. A substantial essay, in which Edgerton defines what he calls the “Baby-Boomer Cornbread Eaters,” who, white and black, shared a diet dictated by poverty along with a consciousness that they were considered inferior. Campbell demonstrates the fact that these people were all victims of “the practice of arrogant power and injustice.” Praises her characterization, her realistic evocation of place, and her message of hope.Graeber, Laurel. “’It’s About Childhood.’” The New York Times Book Review, September 20, 1992, 13. A brief report of an interview with Campbell, in which she comments on the theme and the title of her novel as well as on her concern that black children will erroneously assume that they are doomed to be victims of society.Jones, Suzanne W. “Childhood Trauma and Its Reverberations in Bebe Moore Campbell’s Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine. ” In Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination, edited by Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008. Examines the effects of Armstrong’s death upon the other characters in Campbell’s novel.Kirkus Reviews. Review of Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, by Bebe Moore Campbell. 60 (June 15, 1992): 733-734. An unfavorable review. In her novel, Campbell moves from a rapid, ineffectual depiction of a real tragedy to “soap-opera” and “a glib picture of the New South.” Accuses her of “crass exploitation” of Till’s story.See, Lisa. “Bebe Moore Campbell.” Publishers Weekly 235 (June 30, 1989): 82-83. A lengthy interview, conducted after the publication of Sweet Summer, that reveals much about the writer. Campbell discusses her views on family and on divorced parents, arguing that black divorced fathers, in particular, are often portrayed as uncaring, when in fact they can be as nurturing as her own father was. Attributes her own success to the consistent support of others, including her family, to hard work, and to prayer.Steinberg, Sybil. Review of Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, by Bebe Moore Campbell. Publishers Weekly 239 (June 22, 1992): 44. A favorable review, comparing the author to Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee. Notes “poetic prose, fine characterization” and the references to contemporary life that “add to the rich, textured background.”
Categories: Characters