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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor

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What are the themes in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?

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Rolling Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor, while addressing issues specific to race, also proposes issues that are universal.  Her main themes are Freedom/Independence, Racial Justice, and Pride

  • Freedom/Independence

The main character, Cassie Logan, hopes to achieve independence. In this respect, Taylor's novel is a novel of maturation. In one episode that demonstrates this theme, Little Man and Cassie both reject the old, used books that they are supposed to use. Miss Crocker whips the children, and Mrs. Logan is very upset; however, she expresses her love and trust in her children when she tells Cassie, "I pray to God you'll make the most of yours [her life]". Little Man certainly personifies the spirit that is in the Logan family with his rejection of second-rate citizenship and books and materials. Uncle Hammer, too, characterizes this spirit with his having moved up North and attained financial security.

  • Racial Justice

At the heart of the narrative is the racial bias that becomes the antagonistic force against which the Logans must fight. From the mistreatment of the bus driver who intentionally muddies the Logan children to Cassie's and Big Ma's treatment in Strawberry, and especially the burning of the Berrys and the killing of T.J. Avery. 

  • Pride/Integrity

One review of Taylor's novel praises the author for her writing that is without "rancor or bitterness, but with pride, strength, and respect for humanity.  The Logans are a proud family, proud of their name, proud of their land, proud of their integrity. Taylor's character exemplify the human spirit that abides in all who have principles and adhere to them.

When their land and happiness is threatened in the growing conflict with the Wallaces, David Logan tells his wife that he must confront Harlan Granger, she is fearful that he will be hurt. Mr. Logan replies,,

If I don't they'll hang TJ. This thing's been coming a long time....

Bravely, Mr. Logan sets fire to his own land to bring everyone together in the effort to stop all the land from burning.

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What are some themes and issues in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?

I would want to argue that one of the central themes of this powerful story is the value and pride with which the Logans look after their own land and the sacrifices that they are willing to make to keep it in the Logan family, even when those sacrifices become very challenging and personal, such as Uncle Hammer's selling of his car. The independence of the Logan family in the face of white opposition and manipulation to try and get them to sell it is something that the characters battle against throughout the entire novel, but nowhere is a more poignant description of this theme found than in the first chapter, when Cassie asks her Papa why he has left them to find work to help support the family:

I asked him once why he had to go away, why the land was so important. He took my hand and said in his quite way: "Look out there, Cassie, girl. All that belongs to you. You ain't never had to live on nobody's place but your own and long as I live and the family survives, you'll never have to. That's important. You may not understand that now, but one day you will. Then you'll see."

We can see how having your own land as opposed to renting land from a white landowner instills the Logan family with a sense of dignity and strength that other African-Americans in the novel lack. Of course, the possession of the land is something that brings them into conflict with the whites around them.

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