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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor

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Character Analysis of Jeremy in "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry"

Summary:

Jeremy is a kind and loyal white boy who befriends the Logan children despite racial tensions. He often faces ridicule and punishment from his family and peers for his friendships. His character highlights the possibility of cross-racial friendships and the innocence of youth in a racially divided society.

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Describe the character of Jeremy in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

Jeremy Simms is a very interesting character in the novel. As a white boy whose father is one of the group of white men that go round lynching and abusing blacks at night, we would expect him to demonstrate the same kind of belief in white supremacy that his sister, Lillian Jean does. Of course, the clearest example of this is when Lillian Jean expects Cassie to apologise for bumping into her and then to walk on the road to let her pass. However, Jeremy has a friendship with the Logan children, and in particular, Stacey. Thus it is that Jeremy tries to appease Lillian Jean and get Cassie out of trouble.

In particular, on Christmas day, Jeremy brings a bag of nuts to the Logan family and also gives Stacey a present that he made especially for him: a wooden flute. As such, Jeremy is an important character as he seems to symbolise the possibility of friendship between whites and blacks, in spite of Papa's beliefs otherwise:

"Far as I'm concerned, friendship between black and white don't mean that much 'cause it usually ain't on an equal basis. Right now you and Jeremy might get along fine, but in a few years he'll think of himself as a man but you'll probably still be a boy to him."

However, in spite of the doubt that Papa has about Jeremy and his friendship with Stacey, it is clear that Jeremy seems to symbolise hope of a better, more equitable world in this novel where blacks are not discriminated against and where they can be respected and loved by whites.

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Who is Jeremy in "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" and what is unique about him?

Jeremy Simms, described as a "strange boy," is an eleven-year-old white boy who tries to be friends with Stacey and the other Logan children. Along with the attorney Wade Jamison, Jeremy's role is to contrast with a negative character, specifically with his sister Lillian Jean, who is antagonistic to Cassie. He is unique for believing along with Mama that "everybody" is "somebody."

Mama teaches her daughter and sons, 

“Everybody born on this earth is somebody and nobody, no matter what color, is better than anybody else.”

Jeremy exemplifies this same thinking in a white person; therefore, he contributes to the development of this idea as a truth. On the Logan children's first day of school, he walks with them as he would like to be Stacey's friend. Cassie, as narrator, describes him:

He was a strange boy. Ever since I had begun school, he had walked with us as far as the crossroads in the morning, and met us there in the afternoon. He was often ridiculed by the other children at his school....

Despite receiving physical abuse at home, Jeremy continues to meet with the Logans as he wants to be friends with Stacey. For example, later in Chapter 7, Jeremy brings gifts for the Logan children at Christmas. But Mr. Logan asks Jeremy if his father knows he is at the Logan's. When Jeremy replies, "No," Mr. Logan tells him it would be better for him to depart. 

“Far as I’m concerned, friendship between black and white don’t mean that much ’cause it usually ain’t on an equal basis...."

But, he adds, once the boys are grown, Jeremy will not feel the same way.

In Chapter 8, Cassie is forced into carrying Lillian Jean's books and Jeremy, defending her right as "somebody," comes up to her, touching her shyly:

“C-Cassie, you didn’t have to do that. That—that ole Lillian Jean, she ain’t worth it.”

But, Cassie only feigns subservience because, after Lillian Jean reveals her secret affection for a boy and other confidences, Cassie issues Lillian a beating. Then when Lillian Jean threatens to tell her father, Cassie also threatens to reveal Lillian Jean's secrets.

In Chapter 9, Jeremy tells Stacey that he will miss being around him, but adds that T.J. has been around Melvin and R.W., his older brothers, who are eighteen and nineteen:

They treated him almost friendly like, but when he left they laughed and talked ’bout him—called him names.” He squinted again at the trail and said hurriedly, “I better go. . . . See y’all tomorrow.”

In contrast to many of the other characters, Jeremy Simms is unique for being very sensitive and thoughtful. Thus, he has the role of acting as a character who develops the humanitarian aspect of the novel. 

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