In Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, what news does T.J. have about Sam Tatum, and why does he always have to drag out his news?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 4 after the disturbing experience of witnessing two cars pull into their drive, and then seeing Mr. Morrison steal around the house with a shotgun in his arms and watch the men pull away, Cassie does not rest well the rest of the night. fearing that hers and her brother's act of revenge on the bus has been found out; in fact, she is nervous the next day.

However, a week after the incident, T.J. has a story that explains where the "night-riders" did go that night. He sits around the fire with the Logan boys and first expounds upon his system of getting out of work at home, explaining that he dodged it by returning the Logan's scissors since he can tarry and talk with the boys for a while. When no one pays much attention, T. J. asks them if they have heard about the "night men." Suddenly, T. J. has the Logan children "in his power." But, he brags and acts as though he is older and the news may not be for "the ears of little kids." Knowing that he wishes to be the center of attention, Cassie and the others feign disinterest and stare at the fire. In order to regain his captive audience, T.J. tries another tactic, gaining "a captive audience of one." However, when Christoper-John, Little Man, and Cassie stand up to depart on an errand they must run, T. J. blurts out that Sam Tatum was tarred and feathered on the night when Cassie saw the cars. Evidently Sam has had a dispute with Mr. Barnett, the white man who runs the Mercantile in Strawberry: when Mr. Barnett charged Mr. Tatum for items he did not order, Mr. Tatum refused to pay for them. T. J. tells the others,

"Mr. Barnett says, 'You callin' me a liar, boy?' And Mr. Tatum says, 'Yessuh, I guess I is!' That done it!"

This news causes more anxiety in the Logan children as the boys worry that if the bus incident is discovered, they may be subjected to the same abuse. In the meantime, T.J. has run back into the house purportedly for his hat, but he actually searches for Mrs. Logan's test. T.J. exhibits the behavior of a sneaky boy and one who has not been given enough parental supervision. His attempts to captivate his audience and hold their attention as long as possible indicate that he is not being given enough discipline and love in his own home.

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