The Characters (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Characterization is one of the real strengths of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. The book’s characters are believable and, for the most part, sympathetic, and younger readers can easily identify with them.
The narrator and central character of the novel is nine-year-old Cassie Logan, a bright (some might say precocious) rebel who gains a fuller identity in the course of the novel through her family’s struggles with racism and injustice during the Depression. She is, of course, no blank slate when the novel opens (she knows, for example, that “punishment was always less severe when I poured out the whole truth to Mama on my own before she had heard anything from anyone else”), but she still cannot understand why Mr. Barnett will not wait on them at his store in Strawberry. Through the actions of the novel, Cassie learns that—as Mama puts it—“in the world outside this house, things are not always as we would have them to be.” Cassie’s treatment of Lillian Jean Simms toward the novel’s end is an indication that she will survive in this society, and her first-person narration allows readers to witness her growth and development through the novel.
One of the unusual qualities of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry as an initiation novel is that it has not one but two protagonists. While Cassie is learning about the world and moving from innocence and naïveté, she is also telling about her older brother Stacey’s taking more responsibility and growing into maturity himself. At the opening of the novel, with his father away working on the railroad, Stacey is anxious to become the man of the family, and he resents the arrival of Mr. Morrison. He is already a young man with...
(The entire section is 704 words.)
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The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Cassie Logan’s innocence allows the reader to experience racial intolerance in the pure light of her naïveté and thereby to share her dawning consciousness of its violence, horror, and injustice. Expecting to gain knowledge of herself and others from books, she instead discovers “the way of things” in the physical and emotional violence of her racially dichotomous society. The reader follows her progress through a hazardous course in how to survive in a world hostile to one’s very skin. Like many books for the young, this novel shows issues in black and white, but here that does not make them simpler. Cassie undergoes a rite of passage from the simplicity of family unity to the complexity of the fear and fury of racial discord. Yet the positive values instilled in her by her family live on. Her family’s support and love seem to strengthen in the face of adversity. Paradoxically, with new experience and new knowledge gained, Cassie’s loss is profound. Her closing words are elegiac; she weeps and laments both the injuries done T. J. and the injuries done the land.
Stacey Logan, Cassie’s eldest brother, also matures in the course of this year. A moody, serious twelve-year-old, he is a typical enough young adolescent to be chagrined that his own mother is his seventh-grade teacher. He learns important lessons about loyalty, friendship, and responsibility. In his father’s absence, he strives to be the head of his household. He evolves from acting according to a blind allegiance to his friends (as when he refuses to betray T. J.’s cheating at school) to reasoned accountability for his own actions, as when he confesses to his mother that he has broken his promise not to go to the Wallaces’ store.
Christopher John Logan is unlike both his brothers and his sister in his passivity. Even on the night of T. J.’s beating and the...
(The entire section is 761 words.)
Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Cassie Logan, age nine, the narrator and central character, a bright rebel who wants fairness and justice in this world. As an African American child in the South, she learns instead about injustice and discrimination. By getting sweet, subtle revenge for her humiliation at the hands of Lillian Jean Simms, Cassie proves her successful passage through childhood innocence by the end of the novel.
Stacey Logan, her twelve-year-old brother, the Logan family’s eldest child, who is itching to become the man of the family while his father is away. Stacey’s growth to maturity matches Cassie’s when he proves himself a loyal friend and as resourceful as his father.
Christopher-John Logan, another brother, age seven.
Clayton Chester Logan
Clayton Chester Logan, called “Little Man,” the youngest Logan, age six.
David Logan (Papa), who works on the railroad in Louisiana for part of each year in order to make money to pay the mortgage on the Logan land. David Logan is a man of compassion and reason; his quick thinking at the end of the novel saves his family.
Mary Logan (Mama), the seventh-grade teacher at the school the four children attend. She is sensitive and loving and has a strong physical and spiritual bond with her husband. Their love spills over onto others beyond the circle of their family.
Big Mar, Cassie’s grandmother (Papa’s mother), a woman in her sixties who helps to teach Cassie the importance of the family and their land.
Uncle Hammer, Papa’s hot-tempered older brother, who lives in Detroit and who must sell his car to help the family.
Mr. Morrison, the huge “human tree” Papa brings back from Louisiana to help protect the family against night riders.