How is racism presented in the novel of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry? Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a novel based in the Southern States of America in the 1930’s and deals with the theme of Racism amongst other themes. Racism is being prejudice or discriminating against someone of a different race based on such a belief. Following on from the Civil War, America experienced ‘The Great Depression’ and it affected everyone, especially blacks.
Mildred Taylor reveals examples of racism and racist behaviour throughout the novel based on her own experiences. In this essay, I will discuss what blacks were subjected to and how racism is presented in this novel. Right from the very start, the Logan Children, although they have been protected from racism, experience unjust acts against them. The books that the Logan Children use in school were previously owned by the white children until they were considered too tatty for them to use.
The books also include the race of the student, using the word “nigra. ” However, Little Man and Cassie do not know how to react to this: “…he sucked in his breath and sprang from his chair like a wounded animal, flinging the book onto the floor and stomping madly upon it. ” This demonstrates how naive Little Man is as he reacts angry and offended because he has not been treated in that way before. This also shows that blacks do not need or require books that are in good condition because of the racist opinions of the whites.
TJ Avery, a character introduced early on in the novel, is accustomed to racism and recognises it. He frequently gossips and enlightens the Logan Children about racist acts. An example of this is when he passes on details concerning the Berry Burnings: “I betcha I could give y’all an earful ‘bout that burnin’ last night” The Logan Children act surprised and reply with ‘Burning? What burning? ’ which further reveals their innocence and naivety to racism. Moreover, this illustrates TJ’s understanding of unjust and prejudice acts against black people.
At the end of the novel, these prejudice and unjust acts are witnessed by the Logan Children when TJ’s family are brutally attacked by the ‘Night Men’. TJ is blamed for the murder of Mr. Barnett, a white man, when the offence was committed by R. W and Melvin Simms (two white boys). However, TJ was only an accomplice in the break in of Mr. Barnett’s store but this does not prevent the ‘Night Men’ attacking TJ and his family. They do this because it gives them reason to physically and violently assault the Avery family just because they’re black: “…dragged from the ouse on his knees. His face was bloody and when he tried to speak he cried with pain. ” This shows they are treated like animals and not as equals. TJ is considered disposable by the white men as they do not care what happens to him. Also the fact that there was no legal intervention displays how racist the community really was towards black people. In my opinion, I think Mildred Taylor included this in the novel to show that no one stood up to it even though it was unjust and unfair. In contrast to this, not every white character in the book is racist.
For example, Jeremy Simms and Mr. Jamison. Jeremy Simms, a white boy, wants to befriend the Logan Children despite knowing he will be punished for his actions as it is considered unacceptable for a white boy to socially interact with black children: “Jeremy grew even more pale, ‘C-cause I just likes y’all’ he stammered” This shows what a brave and courageous character he is to look beyond the colour of a person’s skin for the sake friendship. Mildred Taylor, I believe, included this in the book to show that not everyone was racist and as it gives the reader a sense of hope.
In conclusion, this is a very thought provoking novel as it presents racism in an effective way. This is due to Mildred Taylor writing it based on her own experiences which makes it very realistic. Furthermore, as the book was written from a child’s perspective, it makes it easy to relate to and easier to understand. Racism was obvious from an early age as black children were made to feel unworthy even though some were protected from it by their parents. Also that for some their day to day reality of living with racism forced them to mature and grow up.
Although unjust and unfair, racism was allowed to fester as there was no movement within the white community to prevent it continuing; most white people and black people just accepted it as they felt there was nothing they could do or it was too dangerous to stand up to. However, the novel shows there was a glimmer of hope as there were white people who disagreed with racism and were prepared to look beyond the colour of black people’s skin. I feel this book is suggesting that racism affected black people’s, of all ages, day to day lives and were treated with prejudice and discrimination but with violent consequences. David Constant 9F
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