Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Storytelling and Language 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.
Storytelling and Language Theme Icon

In the author’s note to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor writes that her father was a master storyteller. She says that from his storytelling, she “learned to respect the past, to respect my own heritage and myself.” Storytelling plays a similar role for Cassie in the book. During Christmas, for example, several of the adults in the black community tell stories about their families. The stories are a way for Cassie to learn about her past and what she can be proud of—but some of them also reveal societal injustices that get Cassie thinking about all the ways that life isn’t fair, especially for black people.

Storytelling is especially important for the black community because it isn’t their history that’s taught in schools. Instead, teachers are forced to teach extremely biased versions of the past. When there aren’t written words to back up their past, they have to resort to oral history.

Language is often used as a weapon in the book. Characters use name-calling and derogatory language to put others down. Cassie also learns to hold her tongue during the course of the book, since her outbursts at the beginning only get the family into trouble. She learns that dignified silence, too, can be powerful.

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Storytelling and Language ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Storytelling and Language 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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Storytelling and Language 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 Storytelling and Language.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Shoot,” I mumbled finally, unable to restrain myself from further comment, “it ain’t my fault you gotta be in Mama’s class this year.”

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker), Stacey Logan, Mama
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

As the novel opens on an October morning in Mississippi, Cassie walks to her first day of school along with her brothers Stacey, Christopher-John, and Little Man (Clayton Chester). Stacey responds to Cassie’s frustration with Little Man’s fastidious ways with irritation of his own, and Cassie attributes Stacey’s foul mood to the fact that he will be in his mother’s schoolroom this year. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry thus begins with a relatively benign issue surrounding family and education: a son is embarrassed to be in his mother’s classroom. Yet, as the narrative continues, the specific lessons which Mama teaches will engage with the broader social issues that circumscribe the novel, and far more difficult situations related to family, independence, and duty will arise.


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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.   

Chapter 7 Quotes

And in the fireplace itself, in a black pan set on a high wire rack, peanuts roasted over the hickory fire as the waning light of day swiftly deepened into a fine velvet night speckled with white forerunners of a coming snow, and the warm sound of husky voices and rising laughter mingled in tales of sorrow and happiness and days past but not forgotten.

Related Characters: Cassie Logan (speaker)
Related Symbols: Weather
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

On Christmas evening, as the Logan family gathers, the reader is able to witness the reason that these characters are so devoted to taking care of their land; it is these intimate family moments, of telling shared stories in comfort and even prosperity, that make their work worthwhile. The narrator's decadent description -- which slowly goes over the scene's rich collection of food and decorations, and the room's pleasant fireplace -- makes this scene an instance of rare abundance. The Logans seem to have enough. It is significant that this description ends by alluding to their narratives -- the "tales of sorrow and happiness and days past but not forgotten" -- this informal education unites the Logan family, and celebrates the history that is so often silenced in schools. Here, in these evening of bounty, they can be expressed and given primary importance.

Chapter 9 Quotes

“You see that fig tree over yonder, Cassie? Them other trees all around…that oak and walnut, they’re a lot bigger and they take up more room and give so much shade they almost overshadow that little ole fig. But that fig’s got roots that run deep, and it belongs in that yard as much as that oak and walnut…It don’t give up. It give up, it’ll die. There’s a lesson to be learned from that little tree, Cassie girl, ‘cause we’re like it. We keep doing what we gotta, and we don’t give up. We can’t.”

Related Characters: Papa (speaker), Cassie Logan
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Avery and Mr. Lanier visit and inform the Logans that they cannot participate in the boycott any longer, because they have been threatened with a chain gang. Stacey immediately explodes in anger about them acting "like a bunch of scared jackrabbits," but Papa strives to make his children understand that the Logans' relative financial stability is a gift that other families cannot enjoy. Yet, at the same time, the Logans are like a "fig tree" -- a type of tree which has rich Biblical symbolism. The Logans' symbolic tree may not be as tall and mighty as others (the oak and the walnut), but it is deeply rooted; the Logans may not be able to immediately change their social circumstances, as much as they wished to with the boycott, but they remain determined to improve the lot of black individuals in Mississippi and will keep striving despite this immediate setback. "We keep doing what we gotta," Papa says, like that "little tree."