Let the Circle Be Unbroken recounts one family’s struggle against prejudice and poverty as seen through the eyes and experiences of Cassie, the main character. The Logans battle the Great Depression, powerful, greedy, white landowners of rural Mississippi, segregation, and domestic tragedies that threaten to destroy the family at every turn. They maintain their dignity, pride, and faith, however, and keep the family together.
The novel begins with friends and neighbors preoccupied with the tragedy that has struck T. J., Joe Avery’s son, and the effects of the Depression on rural Mississippi. T. J. and his two white friends, R. W. and Melvin Simms, had broken into Barnett’s Mercantile and stolen a gun. In their scuffle to escape, Melvin fatally had shot the owner, Jim Lee Barnett; Papa Logan had set his field ablaze to prevent a white vigilante group from lynching T. J. for the murder. T. J.’s arrest and impending execution greatly distress the Logans, who have no faith in the white judicial system and view the trial as only a legal way to lynch a black boy. In fact, the prosecution, the judge, and the all-white jury are so eager to hang the “nigger” that neither Justice Overton’s testimony linking R. W. and Melvin to the murder nor the holes that the defense bores into Mrs. Barnett’s testimony that she saw “niggers” murder her husband is enough to forestall the jury’s guilty verdict. Cassie and her brothers, Christopher-John and Little Man (who steal away to the courthouse to observe the trial), witness firsthand racism and segregation at work in legal garb and must fight to maintain their self-esteem.
Back on the farm, Papa and Mr. Morrison, a friend, repair tools and broken fences in preparation for crop time, which ends the short school year by drawing everyone to the fields. They are wary of the crop-reduction officer, Mr. Handsworth, but must also resist Harlan Granger, who wants to forge Papa Logan’s subsidy check—which the AAA has given him in return for destroying his cotton crop—and run him off his duly purchased property. Only a few blocks away, Moe Turner’s family, friends of the...
(The entire section is 882 words.)