Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry | Study Guide

Mildred D. Taylor

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Course Hero, "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Study Guide," April 13, 2018, accessed December 10, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Roll-of-Thunder-Hear-My-Cry/.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

It is late March. Spring is arriving. Papa and Mr. Morrison plow the fields. The kids are still in school for a while longer, though not as long as the white children. On one walk home from school, Jeremy laments their schools end on different dates. He wishes he could come visit the Logans because he gets lonely at home. When Cassie and Stacey are surprised, Jeremy explains his family isn't nice, and he doesn't like how his brothers treat T.J. As Cassie helps Mama cook, she asks her about this, and Mama speculates they keep T.J. around because they laugh at him.

Mr. Jamison's arrival interrupts the talk. He talks with Papa for a while. After he leaves, Mama asks why he came, and Cassie overhears Papa explain. Thurston Wallace has been heard saying he wasn't going to "let a few smart colored folks ruin his business." Wallace has said he will stop the practices of shopping at Vicksburg. Mama is scared, but Papa reassures her it isn't yet time to be scared.

School ends and summer approaches, but Papa doesn't go back to work on the railroads yet. Eventually, he decides he has to but doesn't want to because the local confrontation with the Wallaces hasn't been resolved yet. Mr. Avery comes to visit and reluctantly tells Papa he won't be shopping at Vicksburg anymore. He explains it will be hard for him to pay his existing debts. Mr. Granger has threatened to kick his sharecroppers off their land if they keep shopping at Vicksburg. The Wallaces have promised they'll set the sheriff on anyone who doesn't pay their debts. They'll be arrested and put to work on the chain gang to pay off those debts. After he leaves, Stacey criticizes him for what he sees as cowardice, but Papa immediately shuts him down. He grabs Stacey and lectures him about the hard choices these men face, and how much they risk just by trying to shop elsewhere. Stacey apologizes, and Cassie asks if they are giving up, too. In response he points her to the fig tree and says they are like that fig tree: they will abide because they have "roots that run deep."

On the following Wednesday morning, Papa, Mr. Morrison, and Stacey go to Vicksburg to shop. While some of the families aren't sending orders, seven families still are. They are late coming back from Vicksburg on Thursday. After the children have gone to bed, the dogs start barking. Mr. Morrison carries Papa in with a broken leg and a bleeding head. When Mama starts to ask about the leg, Mr. Morrison turns to Stacey, shutting down the question. As the adults take care of Papa, they send Stacey to take the kids back to bed. When he does, he tells them Papa's head wound came from getting shot. He tries not to tell them more, but Cassie won't budge until he does. They left Vicksburg after it was dark. When the wagon wheels came off, the men decided someone must have tampered with them. As they were putting the wheels back on, a truck came up behind them. Papa reached for his shotgun, and they shot him. The noise scared the mule and he reared up. The wagon shifted and rolled over their father's leg. Stacey blames himself for not being able to hold the mule. The men came after Mr. Morrison, but he tore them apart. The injured men got in their truck and drove away. Stacey thinks it was the Wallaces. Christopher-John asks if Papa is going to die, and Stacey assures him he'll wake up in the morning.

Analysis

Because she is present while Papa is gone working on the railroads, Mama gets more time in the narrative than her husband does. However, this chapter gives him center stage in three different ways, though all of them deal with race, communication, and ethics. The first is the confrontation with Stacey after Mr. Avery leaves. Stacey begins to criticize the families who could not continue to shop at Vicksburg. His father is harsh with him and comes close to violence. Though Papa must be frustrated by the flagging support for his plan, his ethical reasoning is humane and sophisticated. He realizes the other families are in a more vulnerable position than the Logans are because they don't own their own land.

The second instance is when Papa points Cassie to the fig tree and explains how they are like it. This is one of the rare explicit symbols in the book. It is not a symbol Taylor returns to, but it is meaningful for both Cassie and Papa. He explains they aren't as tall or grand as some other families, but they will survive because of their deep roots. He makes a lesson out of the fig tree's annual fruit production: they must persist and never give up, or else they'll die.

The third instance comes through Stacey's recounting of the trip to Vicksburg. Though Cassie retells it, it is one of the times at which a key element in the novel is essentially told from someone else's perspective. Though Papa is injured and the family fears for his life, this is still quite a heroic story. Stacey—who is still quite young—gets tapped to go to Vicksburg with these two men he admires. Papa is shopping in Vicksburg not because it is easier—it is harder, with the long ride—but to create a change in his community. And Mr. Morrison faces armed men barehanded and beats them in a fight. This sets him up as almost a superhero: he is noble, fearless, and immensely strong. Taylor has said one of her goals in her writing is to tell the heroic side of black history, and she definitely does so through the figure of Mr. Morrison.

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