Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Land Symbol Icon
Land represents independence, family, and community in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. The land represents the Logans’ independence from the power structure around them, since by working their own plot of land the Logans are free, in both the sense they have no master and can shop where they like. However, the Logans must still exercise their freedom carefully, since the society at large is still grossly unequal and biased against them. For the Logans, the land is also intrinsically linked to family. Cassie says that it doesn't matter whose name the deed is in because it will always be "Logan land." However, when Papa knows he might be able to save T.J.’s life by sacrificing the land, he does so, setting it on fire. In this case, he sacrifices the land to protect his community and family.

Land Quotes in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

The Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry quotes below all refer to the symbol of Land. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Puffin Books edition of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry published in 1991.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Once our land had been Granger land too, but the Grangers had sold it during Reconstruction to a Yankee for tax money. In 1887, when the land was up for sell again, Grandpa had bought two hundred acres of it, and in 1918, after the first two hundred acres had been paid off, he had bought another two hundred…But there was a mortgage on the two hundred acres bought in 1918 and there were taxes on the full four hundred, and for the past three years there had not been enough money from the cotton to pay both and live on too.

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker), Harlan Granger
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

While they walk on the dusty road, Cassie and her brothers are surrounded by woods and fields – the sort of land which is so precious to her family. It is significant that Cassie, at the age of nine, knows the particular years that her grandfather bought their land and is familiar with her family’s current financial difficulties (the mortgage and the taxes); this underscores how the Logan land is important to the entire family, not just to the adults. The land is a source of freedom (for it gives the family financial independence) and constraint (because it unifies family members together, ensuring that they all work in pursuit of the same goal, even if they must travel as Cassie’s father does).

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I asked him once why he had to go away, why the land was so important. He took my hand and said in his quiet way: “Look out there, Cassie girl. All that belongs to you. You ain’t never had to live on nobody’s place but your own and long as I live and the family survives, you’ll never have to. That’s important. You may not understand that now, but one day you will. Then you’ll see.”

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker), Papa (speaker)
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel is set in 1933, when share-cropping was a common practice and former slave families often did not own the land of they labored on. In this setting, it is unusual that the Logans own their own land, and it is difficult for them to maintain this ownership in the face of a hostile, greedy white populace. Yet, by devoting themselves to maintaining their land, they can exert an unusual amount of influence on their own lives, and can begin to break free from the social and cultural heritage of slavery. As an adult, Cassie's father recognizes this; he understands the implications of land ownership on his family's relationship to the past and future. Cassie cannot as deeply grasp this significance, but she remembers the strength of her father's conviction as he once alluded to it. This suggests how the beliefs tied to property, as well as the property itself, can be inherited through generations.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“…Y’all got it better’n most the folks ‘round here ‘cause y’all gots your own place and y’all ain’t gotta cowtail to a lot of this stuff. But you gotta understand it ain’t easy for sharecroppin’ folks to do what you askin’.”

Related Characters: Mr. Turner (speaker)
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Mama visits the Turner household to encourage them to join in her boycott of the Wallace store, and instead shop at other locations such as Vicksburg. Mr. Turner claims that he sympathizes with her sentiments but is unable to join in the movement, because he can only buy items through credit, at the Wallace's store. Mr. Turner introduces a solemn notion into the novel: the Logans are only able to act based on their moral principles and aspirations because they are more financially secure than the share-cropping families which live nearby. This supports the ever-present concept that the Logans' land gives them unusual and extraordinary liberty, and also implies an unfortunate association between one's financial circumstance and one's ability to change the social systems at play in Mississippi.

Chapter 12 Quotes

What had happened to T.J. in the night I did not understand, but I knew that it would not pass. And I cried for those things which had happened in the night and would not pass.
I cried for T.J. For T.J. and the land.

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker), T.J. Avery
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

These chilling last sentences of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry fittingly end with "the land," which simultaneously is the background setting of the novel and the fundamental feature which orders the characters' lives and the events of the narrative. As Cassie lies on her bed and the novel closes, she does not know what will happen to T.J., who awaits more word about his fate from his position in jail. T.J. -- the character who has advocated deception and secrecy throughout the narrative -- is now experiencing a terrible state of not knowing crucial information (whether he will live or die). This is a bitter sort of irony. 

Yet, it is in a way unsurprising that Cassie does not know T.J.'s fate. One of the novel's themes is the tendency for children to be uninformed about the future, or to not fully comprehend the forces surrounding them. Children are by their nature ignorant of the social circumstances which constrain them. They are in this way temporarily saved from knowledge, from having to daily choose to ignore their own dignity or to fight for it, as they continue to fight for the land that is already theirs. 

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Land Symbol Timeline in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

The timeline below shows where the symbol Land appears in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
A long time ago, Cassie’s grandfather purchased 400 acres of land from Harlan Granger’s family, which allows the Logan family to make some extra money from... (full context)
Chapter 4
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Storytelling and Language Theme Icon
...driveway. Big Ma says that Mr. Granger is trying to get some of the Logan land back again. Big Ma walks to the forest across the road, and Cassie follows her... (full context)
Family and Community Theme Icon
...as a carpenter in Vicksburg, where he met Big Ma. He bought 200 acres of land from Mr. Hollenbeck, who had bought most of the Granger land after Reconstruction. The Grangers... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...alive: Cassie’s dad and her Uncle Hammer. Big Ma says that she’ll never sell the land to Harlan Granger, no matter how much he bothers her. (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...the sharecropping families to shop anywhere else, since they don’t have any cash, and the landowners sign for them to let them shop at the Wallaces on credit. The Logans are... (full context)
Chapter 7
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...Big Ma agree that there’s no way the Logans can back their credit with their land—it would surely result in the Logans losing the land. Uncle Hammer wants to burn the... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
...over some papers. She overhears Mr. Jamison say that once the papers are signed, the land will belong to Uncle Hammer and Papa instead of Big Ma, and anything that happens... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...who want to shop there. Mr. Jamison tells them that they will surely lose the land if they try to back the sharecropping families’ credit with it, and he offers to... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...Granger urges them to stop the boycott, threatening that he can make them lose their land if they don’t stop disturbing the peace. Papa says that they haven’t lost their land... (full context)
Chapter 9
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...and the Wallaces, but the family needs his income. Two black sharecroppers on Mr. Granger’s land, Mr. Lanier and Mr. Avery, arrive at the Logans’ house during this conversation and say... (full context)
Chapter 11
Racism Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...and there, but the sheriff says that Harlan Granger doesn’t want anybody hanged on his land. The Wallaces respond that they’ll do the hanging on the road, and they suggest that... (full context)
Chapter 12
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Soon, Big Ma, Mama, Cassie and her brothers smell fire. The land and the cotton are burning, and Big Ma and Mama assume that the lightning started... (full context)
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...black men working side by side, trying to put out the fire to save the land. When the Logan women return home, Mama tells the children what happened. When the fire... (full context)
Racism Theme Icon
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
...he’ll never get to run free again like they will, and she cries for the land. (full context)