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Free Study Guide-Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor-Free Notes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The story is set in Mississippi during the depression. It is an area where former plantation owners and their descendants have been forced to resort to sharecropping their land in order to continue some semblance of their pre-Civil War way of life. The Black families who had been freed by the war have had no where to go and no means of survival off the plantations. Thus they became the tenant farmers or sharecroppers, planting acres of cotton or other crops. The landowner took a percentage of the crop as his share, and the tenant farmer tried to survive on what remained. A major problem with the system was that there was no standard for what was a fair share of the farmerís work.

In this type of environment, a Black family who owned their own land was unique and would have been seen as a threat to the whites. There were also no banking regulations. If a bank owner wanted to recall a loan and demand that it be paid immediately, there was nothing to prevent him from doing so.

In Mississippi, not even the American legal system worked for the blacks. A white person could even go so far as to kill a Black without fear of prosecution, but a Black person could be executed for very minor offenses-or even on entirely false charges, which frequently happened. It is in this environment of fear and subjugation that we find the Logan family.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Cassie Logan

The protagonist. Nine year old daughter of David and Mary Logan. First person narrator. Faces problems of racism. She is the second oldest child in her family.

T.J. Avery

The son of a black sharecropper family who is farming on the Granger land. Obnoxious know-it-all who commits serious errors in judgment in choosing his friends. Cheats on tests, makes fun of his friends, tries to get the Logan children to disobey their parents.

Stacey Logan

Cassieís older brother. Reasonably mature 13 year old. Cassie looks up to him for explanations on things she doesnít know yet. The oldest child in the Logan family.

Mr. Morrison

A guest who moves into a little shack on the Logan land. David brings him under the pretense of giving Mr. Morrison a job, but he really is there to protect the family when David is away on his railroad job. Very large man with a gentle nature who knows how to take a stand when itís needed.


Minor Characters

Mama

Mary Logan, school teacher and mother to the Logan children. Soft spoken but not afraid to stand up for what is right. Starts the business of boycotting the Wallace store.

Big Ma

Grandmother of the Logan children on the fatherís side. She actually owns the land but has it transferred into her sonsí names to protect it. Tells stories at Christmas time about her own background.

Papa (David Logan)

Father to the Logan children. Usually is away from home to work on the railroad. Metes out advice and punishment when he is home. Takes action against Wallace store and burns his own cotton to stop a hanging.

Uncle Hammer

Davidís brother. A generous hothead who will do anything for the family but has too much of a temper to be able to spend much time with the Logans. Sells his car to save the land.

Christopher John

Cassieís next youngest sibling. Chubby tag-a-long. Has no significant action.

Little Man

Cassieís baby brother. Just entering first grade at the start of the story. Has a fetish for cleanliness, but doesnít like to be left out of anything.

Mr. Avery A sharecropper on Granger land that adjoins the Logan land. Easily intimidated, unable to control his son, T.J.

Miss Crocker

Cassieís school teacher. Comes across as rather pompous. Paddles Cassie and Little Man for refusing the books.

Jim Lee Barnett

The owner of a mercantile in Strawberry. Dies of injuries received during the robbery of his store.

Mr. Jamison

A white lawyer and friend to the Logans. Signs for credit so the sharecroppers can shop in Vicksburg

R.W. and Melvin Simms

Two white teenage boys. Have no respect for blacks, including T.J. but will take advantage of his ignorance in order to commit crimes and transfer the blame to him. Break in to Barnettís Mercantile, but blame T.J.

Lillian Jean

The Simm's daughter; an arrogant nine year old who insults Cassie in Strawberry

Mr. Simms

The father of Lillian Jean, R.W., Melvin and Jeremy. Hates blacks in general. Involved in the Strawberry incident where he shoves Cassie into the road and demands a humiliating apology for Lillian Jean.

Jeremy Simms

He tries to befriend the Logans in spite of his family. A quiet, good natured little boy who doesnít seem to fit with his own people. Brings messages to the Logans and gets help when the fire starts.

Mr. Granger

A white land owner. Pays 50 cents an hour to field workers. Wants to buy the Logan land as it once belonged to his ancestors.

Mary Lou Wellever

A student, daughter of the principal. Tries to squabble with Cassie on the first day of school about her choice of seat.

Other students

Gracey Pearson, Alma Scott, Moe Turner. Students of sharecroppers. Mentioned on the first day of school, but have no action in the plot

The Laniers

Sharecroppers. Have no action other than helping to fight the fire.

The Berrys

Sharecroppers. Victims of the initial tragedy which motivated the Logans to stop shopping at the Wallace store. The Wallace brothers dowsed the Berry brothers in kerosene and set them on fire. Mama takes the children to visit the Berryís as an explanation of why they are not to go to the Wallace store.

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