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ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY STUDY GUIDE NOTES

 

CHAPTER 5


Summary

Big Ma makes a trip to Strawberry to sell her butter, milk and eggs. For the first time, Cassie is permitted to go with her along with Stacey and T.J.. Cassie objects to Big Ma’s market spot which is at the end of the market, well away from the main stream of buyers, but Big Ma explains that she has to take the isolated spot because the good spots are the booths for white people.

After the marketing, Big Ma has business in Jamison’s office. She tells the children to stay in the wagon until she returns. Getting impatient, T.J. suggests that they go to the Mercantile and look around, arguing that they would be doing Big Ma a favor by ordering up their “stuff.” T.J. points out a pearl handled gun that he would like to have, then gives his list to Mr. Barnett, the storekeeper. Barnett begins to fill the order but stops several times to fill orders for white people.

Cassie gets angry because of the white people pushing their list in front of her and steps behind the counter in an attempt to get Mr. Barnett’s attention. Mr. Barnett becomes angry, and orders Stacey to get her out of the store. Despondent, Cassie wanders along the sidewalk and accidentally bumps into Lillian Jean Simms. She apologizes, but Lillian demands that Cassie get off the sidewalk. Cassie refuses only to have Mr. Simms shove her off the sidewalk in such a way that she falls in the road. Big Ma returns to the wagon intending to go home, but Mr. Simms will not let them go until Cassie makes a humiliating apology to Lillian Jean. Big Ma orders Cassie to say the words Mr. Simms wants.


Notes

Cassie has never been told what to expect in the store. T.J. and Stacey know that even if the storekeeper is waiting on them, he will stop to fill the orders of white people first, making them wait until last. Cassie sees the unfairness in this but not the reason for it. It doesn’t occur to her that she should have to wait because she is black. Later when she bumps into Lillian Jean, Lillian will not accept her apology until she gets off the side walk and addresses her as “Miss” Lillian Jean. Big Ma makes Cassie comply because she knows that worse treatment will follow if she doesn’t.



CHAPTER 6


Summary

After they arrive home from Strawberry, Stacey talks to Cassie about the incident. She is angry at Big Ma for making her apologize, but Cassie understands why she had to do it.

Uncle Hammer has come to visit, driving a new silver Packard nearly identical to the car owned by Mr. Granger. Hammer asks Cassie about her visit to Strawberry and she tells him about the incident with Lillian Jean in spite of her mother’s attempts to stop her. Hammer is angry about the humiliation of Cassie and tries to take off for town, ostensibly to get even with Simms. However, Mr. Morrison jumps into the car just as Hammer is leaving the driveway. Mama is assured the Morrison will bring him back without incident. In the meantime, she tries to explain why Big Ma forced Cassie to apologize. Cassie objects to having to call Lillian Jean “Miz,” but Mama says that it’s “the way of things.” When Cassie doesn’t understand, Mama explains that the white people think they are better just because they are white.

She talks about slavery, explaining to Cassie that slavery was justified by people who claimed that people from Africa weren’t really people. Consequently, even though seventy years have passed since slavery, most white people still think of blacks as slightly sub-human. The fact doesn’t make it right, but Cassie, as with all people, has a choice of what she will do with her life and how she will live it even though she didn’t have a choice about the color of her skin.

Hammer returns safely after driving around for hours with Mr. Morrison in the car. The next morning they all go to church in Uncle Hammer’s car, but not before he notices that Stacey really needs a new coat. Hammer gives Stacey his Christmas present early-which just happens to be a new, very expensive wool coat. It’s a little big for Stacey, and when T.J. sees him in it, he teases Stacey, calling him “preacher.”

On the ride home from church, Hammer comes to a one lane bridge. Usually the first person to the bridge has leeway, unless that person is black. A black driver will be forced to back all the way off the bridge so a white can cross first. Hammer sees the Wallace truck-loaded with kids-approaching the bridge from the other side and deliberately guns his car. The Wallaces back off the bridge because they think the silver car is Mr. Granger’s. The Logan children are delighted when the Wallace men touch their hats in respect to Mr. Granger, then freeze when they see it is the Logans. Mary Logan gently scolds Hammer, telling him that sooner or later the family will be forced to pay for fooling the Wallaces.


Notes

Hammer is a cocked pistol in the Logan home. He lives and works in the north, so he is out of the extreme racist environment of Mississippi. He seems to be endowed with the courage the Logans lack in that he will take on the Simms and deliberately get the better of the Wallaces. It is also apparent that he knows exactly what kind of car Mr. Granger has and deliberately bought one just like it, only newer. He is obviously well-off. The problem is, he does not completely understand that the blacks of Mississippi are not in control of their own lives; they have no one to speak for them, and if they anger a white person, the white can get revenge with impunity. Hammer will not have to hang around to endure the punishment meted out to blacks who dare to defy the white authorities.


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