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Themes of race are very strong in Bud, Not Buddy as they should be. The Great Depression was hard on all Americans, but it disproportionally effected the African American community and left a lot of people struggling to survive in an unfriendly environment. That being said, many of the black characters in the book are doing fairly well, such as the Amos’s and Herman E. Calloway’s band, and we see a very positive side of a situation that usually lacks a sliver lining. During his time in Hooverville, Bud sees a white couple that refused the other Hoovervillian’s help due to pride, but he also meets a number of perfectly friendly white characters, and the book pays close attention to not painting any race with too broad a brush.
When Bud sets out to find the man he believes to be his father, he does wonder at times why this man would have left his mother. Little does he know, Herman E. Calloway is his grandfather, and he still holds out hope that he will see his daughter again. When he finally learns of her passing, Bud’s grandfather feels deeply saddened by the relationship they had previously, and how his tough love attitude may have driven her away. However, when Bud tells him of the advertisements his mother kept from the band’s performances, he realizes that in a way, his daughter forgave him a long time ago, she just wasn’t sure he could forgive her. Opening up to Bud as his only remaining family, even in little ways, lets him atone and find a way to forgive himself.
Themes of family are exceptionally strong throughout the novel, with the death of Bud’s mother placing him in the foster care system, and prompting him to embark on his search for his father. Bud isn’t simply searching for a better life, he’s searching for what is likely the last bit of flesh and blood he has in the world, and upon finding Herman E. Calloway’s band, he finds a larger family then he ever could have hoped for. He finds a place with the band members, an identity, and that is as powerful as blood relation ever could be.
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