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ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY BOOK NOTES


CHAPTER 8


Summary

Having been encouraged by Papa to choose her battles and take a stand for herself-so long as he does not have to get involved-Cassie thinks of a way to get even with Lillian Jean. In front of her astonished siblings, she catches up to her on the way to school and offers to carry her books, speaking to her with deference. For an entire month, Cassie acts as Lillian Jean’s slave, waiting on her and calling her “Miz.” Lillian Jean confides secrets to her about a boy she loves, games she has played to get his attention, secrets of other girls she hates and tales of her brothers’ romances.

After priming Lillian Jean for a month, Cassie tells her that she has a surprise in the woods that she wants to show her. Once she has Lillian Jean out of sight of the road, Cassie throws her books on the ground. When Lillian Jean slaps her across the face, Cassie lights into her, pulling her hair and punching her, but being careful not to touch her face. She forces Lillian Jean to apologize for the incident in Strawberry and for all the name calling. When Lillian threatens to tell her father, Cassie tells her that if she lets out one word of it, the entire community will know all the secrets she has divulged about herself and her friends.

The end of the school quarter has come and gone, and T.J. failed Mrs. Logan’s class again after being caught cheating. He takes off for the Wallace store and complains to Mr. Wallace about Mary Logan. Kaleb Wallace, Mr. Wellever the principal, Mr. Granger and an unnamed board member visit her classroom on a day shortly after exams. They sit through class for part of the lesson, which happens to be her lesson on slavery. She talks about the cruelty of it, the rich economic cycle it generated and how the country profited from it-and continued to prosper from labor of a people who are still not truly free. Partway through the lesson, Mr. Granger picks up one of the books, noticing the pasted over front covers. He accuses her of teaching things that are not in the book, telling her that she is expected to teach what is in the book that has been approved by the Board of Education. He then tells her that she is fired. Mama tells the kids that although they claimed to have fired her for teaching things they didn’t like, the real reason was the Vicksburg business and her teaching was just an excuse they were using.


At recess the next day, Little Willie Wiggins tells the Logans that he heard T.J. tell Mr. Wallace that Mrs. Logan had failed him on purpose and that she had been destroying school property and was not a good teacher. After school, they follow Stacey to the Avery house. T.J. at first denies having said anything that would cause her to be fired. Stacey does not beat him up, but tells him that he has something worse than a beating coming to him. When he returns to school, the other children ostracize him. At first he tries to apologize, but when that doesn’t work,
T.J. claims that he was tired of hanging around with a bunch of children anyway. The white boys give him “things” and treat him “like a man.”


Notes

Mary Logan is an example both to her own children and to those of the sharecroppers. She is characterized in this chapter as a woman who does not make a big display of her disagreement, but quietly teaches the children what she feels is right. The school board is entirely white; thus even her own principal is intimated against defending her. While she wanders in the field trying to come to terms with her loss, Papa explains to Cassie that Mary was born to teach. Her own parents had saved every nickle they could manage to lay aside even at great personal sacrifice so Mary could attend a teacher training school.

The Wallaces and Grangers really couldn’t care less about Mary’s teaching. They don’t really care if the Black children even attend school; it is just one more step in the process of depriving the Logans of the means to pay their mortgage and the taxes on their land.

T.J. is a tragic figure. He wants the things the white boys have and wants to be treated “like a man.” He is sucked in by a game the boys are playing. They are using him, but because they give him “things,” he thinks they are his friends. He does not understand the meaning of friendship, nor of integrity. His own willingness to cheat for a passing grade makes him vulnerable to worse things and marks his weakness of character.


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