Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Themes and Colors
Racism Theme Icon
Land as Independence Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Injustice and Dignity Theme Icon
Storytelling and Language Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Family and Community Theme Icon

The black community forms a group that allows black individuals to prop each other up in order to face the racism and injustice of the South. They form this community through storytelling and going to Church, and by organizing in specific instances to stand up for the community—like in the instance of Papa’s boycott, for example.

For Cassie, there is nothing more important than family. For example, Cassie is shocked when Jeremy says that he doesn’t like his older brothers because she believes that family takes precedence over everything else. The characters who don’t stick by their families—like T.J.—get into trouble and ultimately drag others down with them, while characters who think first of others—like Papa—strengthen the community around them. On the other hand, friendships are shown to be potentially dangerous things in the novel. The relationships between Stacey and Jeremy and Stacey and T.J., for example, work out badly (for different reasons), and Cassie doesn’t have any close ties to anyone outside of her family. Only family is there every time, all the time.

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Family and Community ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Family and Community appears in each chapter of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Family and Community Quotes in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Below you will find the important quotes in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry related to the theme of Family and Community.
Chapter 1 Quotes

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.


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Chapter 2 Quotes

Papa sat very quietly while the Laniers and the Averys talked, studying them with serious eyes. Finally, he took the pipe from his mouth and made a statement that seemed to the boys and me to be totally disconnected with the conversation. “In this family, we don’t shop at the Wallace store.”

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker), Papa (speaker), The Wallaces, Mr. Avery, Mr. Lanier
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

The Laniers and the Averys discuss how the police refused to believe Henrietta's testimony and, according to Mr. Lanier, "ain't a thing gonna be done 'bout it" or about the Berrys burning. In a seemingly disjointed but clearly serious response, Papa says that his family will avoid shopping at the Wallace store. This statement does not make sense to his children -- Papa does not directly accuse the Wallaces of being culpable for burning the Berrys and instill fear in the children present -- but it indirectly implicates the Wallaces with murdering the Berrys. It also suggests that perhaps the community can indeed respond to recent events; by boycotting the Wallace's store, they can use their financial independence to make a clear statement against the Wallaces' crimes. 

Chapter 4 Quotes

“See, fellows, there’s a system to getting out of work,” T.J. was expounding as I sat down. “Jus’ don’t be ‘round when it’s got to be done. Only thing is, you can’t let your folks know that’s what you’re doin’.”

Related Characters: T.J. Avery (speaker), Cassie Logan
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

The Logan children sit around their home's fire, barely listening to T.J. as he lectures about the ways he manipulates and deceives his family members in order to avoid helping with their work and chores. The Logan children do not engage in such activity; in fact, Cassie has just been helping her mother and grandmother churn butter. T.J. serves as a foil to individual members of the Logan family, who collectively work together on the chores involved with maintaining their home and their land. T.J.'s lies are an example of everyday secrets and childish misbehavior, more mundane versions of the secrets surrounding the murders and whippings and tarrings in the local Mississippi community.   

“Friends gotta trust each other, Stacey, ‘cause ain’t nothin’ like a true friend.” And with those words of wisdom he left the room, leaving us to wonder how he had managed to slink out of this one.

Related Characters: T.J. Avery (speaker), Stacey Logan
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

After the Logan children find T.J. snooping in Mama's room, instead of looking for his cap as he claimed he would be, T.J. claims that he was not looking for the answers to an exam Mama is about to give her class. T.J.'s claim seems dubious; he was, earlier, asking Stacey to find these answer sheets in Mama's materials. Yet the Logan children do not confront T.J. about this incident. T.J. wanders away, after delivering these likely empty words about the importance of friends trusting each other. T.J.'s words, despite their sheen of sentiment, underscore the tenuous and dangerous nature of friendships in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Indeed, friends like T.J. are not to be believed at all.

Chapter 7 Quotes

In quiet anger she glared at Stacey and admonished, “In this house we do not give away what loved ones give to us. Now go bring me that coat.”

Related Characters: Mama (speaker)
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Mama asks Stacey to bring her his coat, so that she can let the sleeves up and fix it so it fits him better, but Stacey admits that he gave the coat to T.J. After Stacey stutters and gives various reasons why T.J. convinced him to give away his coat, Mama gets quite angry that Stacey willingly gave away such a possession and allowed himself to be so manipulated. She chides Stacey that her family members do not "give away what loved ones give to us" -- they do not place others (who are often only looking out for their own interests, as Uncle Hammer reminds everyone) in higher importance than their own family. Of course, the Logans participate in their surrounding community -- the boycott which they lead is meant to improve the lots of all black people living nearby -- but their primary responsibility is always to their own relatives, the more intimate community which will last over time. 

“Far as I’m concerned, friendship between black and white don’t mean that much ‘cause it usually ain’t on a equal basis. Right now you and Jeremy might get along fine, but in a few years he’ll think of himself as a man but you’ll probably still be a boy to him. And if he feels that way, he’ll turn on you in a minute.”

Related Characters: Papa (speaker)
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

Just as T.J.'s manipulative ways prevent an authentic friendship between him and Stacey, Jeremy's unequal status as a white boy prevents a healthy friendship -- as Papa reminds Stacey on Christmas evening, after T.J.'s family has left the Logan house. With this observation, which will hopefully prevent his son from being disappointed or hurt by an unequal friendship, Papa reintroduces the broader social issues into the holiday celebration (after there seemed to be a reprieve, in which Stacey refused to be as influenced from T.J. as he was earlier in the novel). These general issues only resurfaced after other families became involved in the celebration, which provides further support for the concept of familial cohesion.

Chapter 10 Quotes

Mr. Morrison lowered his eyes and looked around the room until his gaze rested on the boys and me. “I ain’t ever had no children of my own. I think sometimes if I had, I’d’ve wanted a son and daughter just like you and Mr. Logan…and grandbabies like these babies of yours…”

Related Characters: L.T. Morrison (speaker), Cassie Logan, Stacey Logan, Little Man, Christopher-John Logan, L.T. Morrison
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:
Kaleb Wallace attempts to use his truck to block Mr. Morrison, as Morrison drives the wagon back to the Logans' house after helping the neighbor Mr. Wiggins sow seeds one day. After Morrison physically moves the Wallaces' truck and begins to depart, Wallace threatens to kills Morrison. Once Mama hears this story, she fears that Morrison will be killed because of his association with her family, and she seems about to ask him to leave them. Desperately, Mr. Morrison asks to stay, and he even reveals that he always wanted children like the Logan children. This scene does not only emphasize Morrison's admirable strength and devotion to the Logan family; it also suggests that Morrison has stayed with the family for much of the narrative because he personally needs to. Even individuals without children of their own might be moved to focus their lives around familial sentiment and dedication; in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, these intimate bonds trump all else.

Uncle Hammer put his arm around Papa. “What good’s a car? It can’t grow cotton. You can’t build a home on it. And you can’t raise four fine babies in it.”

Related Characters: Uncle Hammer (speaker), Papa
Related Symbols: Modes of Transportation
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:

After Uncle Hammer sells his car to support the entire Logan family and help pay the mortgage on the land, he does not seem to begrudge his family for this loss of freedom. He puts his arm around his brother, in a show of familial love, and acknowledges that cars don't give financial stability ("it can't grow cotton"), don't add to a stable home ("you can't build a home on it"), and, lastly and most importantly, don't provide you with familial relationships ("you can't raise four fine babies in it"). Independence is not everything; people, and family, are. With this simple sentence, Uncle Hammer reinforces this novel's view about what is significant in life: maintaining financial well-being, being independent, and loving one's family members.

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.