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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor

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Why does Cassie get angry at Mr. Barnett in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry?

Expert Answers

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Cassie became angry and Mr. Barnett because he waited on her after all the white people.

Mr. Barnett is the shopkeeper in Strawberry.  Cassie really likes the store when she goes into it.

The Barnett Mercantile had everything. Its shelves, counters, and floor space boasted items from ladies’ ribbons to burlap bags of seeds; from babies’ bottles to brand-new potbellied stoves. (ch 5)

T.J. shows her a pearl-handled gun that he really wants.  As usual, T.J. wants what he can’t have.  He says he needs it for protection, but Cassie is just shocked that it costs thirty-five dollars.  T.J. brings his list to Mr. Barnett, and then another woman comes in and he begins to wait on her.  Cassie gets upset, but Stacey tells her to hush.

Mr. Barnett returns, looks at T.J.’s list, and then gets called away again.  Cassie is confused. She does not understand why he is waiting on white people before her.  She even tells him that she was there first, and tugs at his shirt.

I was hot. I had been as nice as I could be to him and here he was talking like this. (ch 5)

Stacey drags her out of the store, and she is still mad.  She tells him that he must know Mr. Barnett was wrong, and he says, “I know it and you know it, but he don’t know it, and that’s where the trouble is.”

Poor Cassie leaves the store only to have an altercation with Lilian Jean, who tries to order her around.  When she doesn’t comply, Mr. Simms pushes her into the street.

Cassie gets one hard lesson in racism after another in this chapter.  The white people think they automatically get priority over her, and she should obey them.  She does not understand what makes her inferior, and refuses to accept it.

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