How are didacticism and child agency portrayed in Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mildred Taylor's depiction of the racially-divided environment in which the Logans live and strive for a better life certainly provides examples of both instructional qualities and moral lessons, as well as episodes which illustrate agency on the part of the children, who assume responsibilities and assert themselves as individuals.


  • In Chapter 3 when the fastidious Little Man is so angry that the school bus has flung mud over his clothes, Big Ma consoles him by telling him not to put so much importance on the matter while expressing metaphorically a hope for social change:

"Now, look ain't the end of the world. Lord, child, don't you know one day the sun'll shine again and you won't get muddy no more?"

  • In this same chapter, when their farm is threatened by the Wallaces and other night-riders, Big Mama assumes responsibility as the matriarch of the family and sits up all night with her shotgun. She is willing to sacrifice herself for the safety of her daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
  • Stacy sets an example for readers with his integrity. When T.J. wants to do something underhanded such as cheating on an exam, Stacey tears up his "cheat-sheet"; then when T.J. wants him to sneak down to the Wallaces' store to learn some new dances, Stacey declines because his mother has forbidden him to go there. Later, he fights T.J. for implicating him as a cheater by slipping his new sheet to Stacey. After receiving a whipping from his mother, the teacher, Stacey attacks T.J. But Mr. Morrison, who breaks up the fight, leaves it up to Stacey to report the truth to his mother.
  • Mrs. Logan sets an example of how there are non-violent ways to stand against social wrongs as she organizes the boycott of the Wallace store.
  • In the final chapter, Papa exemplifies unselfish love for his brethren when he discovers that the Wallaces and their comrades have taken T.J.; he grabs his gun, saying, "Gotta get him out of there." Ma objects, worried that his foolish actions will bring him harm, but Papa answers, "Fool or not, I can't just sit by and let them kill the boy. And if they find Stacey...."
  • Later in this chapter, in another act of unselfishness and brotherly love, Papa sets fire to his own cotton crop in order┬áto prevent the fire from going into the trees and spreading onto others' farms.


  • The Logan children retaliate against the bus in order to feel in control of what happens to them. While this act is wrong, it does exemplify the independence of the children and their desire to feel self-esteem.
  • In Chapter 1, the Little Man brings the book passed to him to the desk of Miss Crocker, his teacher, and requests another. When she asks, "What's that you said, Clayton Chester Logan?" he repeats his request bravely. "That one's dirty."
  • Stacey defies his friend T.J. and asserts his sense of right and wrong, refusing to cheat for him.
  • After T. J. implicates Stacey as the one who is cheating in his mother's class, Stacey takes the opportunity to punish T.J. While he should not have beaten T.J., he does, nevertheless, make a choice which is an action of "child agency" in his effort to keep his self-esteem.
  • Cassie is a very independent girl; she especially asserts herself in Strawberry in Chapter 5 when she speaks out about being next in line, and then refuses to apologize to Lillian Jean.
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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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