Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry | Study Guide

Mildred D. Taylor

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry | Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

Mama tells Stacey to get his coat so she can hem the sleeves. Stacey must tell his mother he gave T.J. the coat after T.J. teased him about it. She tells him to get it back, but Hammer intervenes, saying if he isn't "smart enough to hold on to a good coat," then T.J. should get to keep it. This turns into a lecture about taking care of what you have, though what the other children learn from the interaction is not to irritate Uncle Hammer.

Time seems to slow down as the children wait for Christmas. Cassie misses her father, Lillian Jean Simms finds ways to "flounce" past her, looking superior, and T.J. regularly shows off Stacey's coat. Finally, on Christmas Eve, Papa comes home. The family cooks a feast for Christmas. The adults tell stories, some of which the children have never heard before, such as when Papa and Hammer stole watermelons. Late in the evening, Mr. Morrison tells a darker story from when he was younger. He tells of when two teenage boys came to the Morrisons for help after a white woman said they had molested her. The "night men" follow the boys to the house and attack, killing whoever got in their way. Mama isn't sure the children should hear this story, but Papa insists, saying it is their history. Mr. Morrison explains both his parents were very strong, because they were "from breeded stock," slaves kept and bred like animals for hard labor. However, even though they were forced to breed, Mr. Morrison's parents loved each other.

After that story, everyone goes to bed. Cassie wakes up. She hears the adults arguing about what to do about local race relations. Big Ma urges caution. Mama explains what the Wallaces are doing and her plan to hurt them financially by encouraging people to shop elsewhere. Hammer talks about burning out the whites who burned others. Papa says they can't put up their land for collateral for others because they might lose it. When Papa realizes Cassie is awake, he reassures her they won't lose the land, and sends her back to bed.

The next morning the family opens their Christmas presents. The children get store-bought fruit, clothes, and books. After church, the Avery family comes over to share Christmas dinner. Jeremy Simms comes over with a bag of nuts and a handmade whistle as presents. Papa sends him home after a brief visit and explains friendship between blacks and whites "don't mean that much" because it is always unequal. He further explains whites and blacks spending time together means trouble.

The next day Papa punishes the children for visiting the Wallace store. He then leaves with Hammer and Mr. Morrison for Vicksburg. They come back in the late afternoon, and Mr. Jamison arrives a short while later with some papers for the adults. Cassie doesn't know exactly what they are for but knows they are to prevent the land from being sold.

Analysis

Mildred Taylor has repeatedly commented on how her family told stories about events in the family's past. She uses these stories as the foundation for her fiction. In this case the author includes an extended session of storytelling as part of the Christmas day festivities. The adults in this novel often carry heavy burdens: they are working the fields, teaching in schools, worrying about money, and so forth. Here Taylor gives a loving glimpse of some of the other elements of their lives, like the watermelon theft when the Logan brothers were young. Even here, though, the characters can't escape the powerful weight of race and history, which in the South were intimately intertwined. Mr. Morrison's story makes this clear. His parents were killed by a white mob. Before that they were bred like animals for specific qualities.

The fact the Logan family gives books as presents, and the Logan children appreciate them, is significant in many ways. First, the gift of books demonstrates how special the Logan family is. Cassie noted in Chapter 1 most of the children in her school had never even touched a book except for their family Bible. The family is fighting for its financial life, and money is tight throughout the region because of both the Great Depression and low cotton prices. The parents' investment in books demonstrates their dedication to raising literate children. Second, their father explains the history of the books. This shows he, too, is dedicated to learning. He and his wife share a commitment to connecting their children to a history based on facts, rather than to the slanted views found in school textbooks.

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