Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry | Study Guide

Mildred D. Taylor

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry | Chapter 12 | Summary



When they get home, the lights are on. Mama, Big Ma, and Mr. Morrison are standing near the bed. Papa enters, ready to discipline Stacey for sneaking out in the night. The little boys interrupt Papa's tirade, telling how the mob hurt Claude and T.J. Papa puts his anger aside and asks for details. When Papa learns Stacey is still there, hiding in the woods, his first instinct is to "get him out of there." Though the women protest, he takes the shotgun. Mama tells him to get Harlan Granger to step in. Papa points out the cars would have passed Granger's house, so he already knows what's going on. As he and Mr. Morrison leave, Mama again pleads for him not to use the gun. Lightning flashes, giving Papa an idea.

Mama guides the children into her room, where they wait and pray. Then Mama smells smoke. Big Mama concludes the lightning must have started a fire, and she and Mama immediately start fighting it. The children watch the flames getting closer to trees, knowing Papa, Stacey, and Mr. Morrison are all in the trees. After a while, Jeremy comes to check on them. He was fighting the fire and so can share news of it: his father, brothers, and a "whole lot of men from the town" are all fighting it. So are Papa and Mr. Granger, who have organized the men to dig a trench, hoping to stop the fire there. After Jeremy shares what he knows, they all stare at the sky, hoping for the rain. After a while, it rains. Jeremy heads home. The Logan children dance in the rain.

The next morning Cassie and Little Man survey the aftermath of the fire. Blacks and whites are both so dirty with ash it is hard to tell them apart. Everyone seems to have forgotten the previous night's hatred. Cassie and Little Man meet up with Stacey, Mama, and Big Ma. They explain when the fire hit, Mr. Granger, Papa, and Mr. Morrison got everyone organized to fight the fire. Mr. Granger turned T.J. over to the sheriff. Papa and Mr. Morrison arrive, as does Mr. Jamison. They finish telling the story: Mr. Barnett died of his injuries, and T.J. has a broken jaw and ribs. After Mr. Jamison leaves, Papa explains T.J. will be sent to the chain gang or worse (he may die), even though they know the Simmses were involved.


One of the functions of Chapters 11 and 12 is to show Stacey's growing maturity—and its limits. He and T.J. aren't really friends anymore, but Stacey takes responsibility for getting him home. Once that task is done, he takes responsibility for the Logan children as they watch the white men gather to lynch T.J. He also realizes when he has reached his limits and goes back to ask his father for help.

This chapter also changes the nature of the situation. Papa first thinks he will have to meet white violence with violence of his own. This might save T.J., but is sure to end badly since he is so completely outnumbered and outgunned. It's the literal sound of the thunder (and accompanying lightning) that gives Papa the idea that allows him to redefine the situation. Rather than attacking the white men, he starts a fire. This threatens their crops and their livelihood and gives the whites and blacks a common enemy.

However, while Papa can figure out how to defuse the situation in the moment, he is unable to do anything to change the larger situation. The best he can do is turn it into a teaching moment for his children and model ethical communication for them, by refusing to lie to them. He and his children are united by their recognition injustice is going to happen. The Simms brothers are guilty, but T.J. is going to pay the price, simply because of his race. This is a tragic and exhausting ending. Members of the Logan family have tried everything they can think of and risked a lot, and T.J. is still going to be punished unfairly.

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