Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Land as Independence Theme Analysis

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.
Land as Independence Theme Icon

In a culture where the memory of slavery is still strong, land is a symbol of independence and autonomy. Big Mama, Mama, and Papa repeat the same refrain throughout the book: "We won't lose the land." 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 that they have no master, can earn based on their own work, 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." Her despair at the novel’s end comes from realizing that her family’s ownership of the land is in danger—as is the independence and power it represents.

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Land as Independence ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Land as Independence 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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Land as Independence 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 Land as Independence.
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 10 Quotes

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.