Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – Literature – Themes

The importance of owning your own land

Throughout the book the Logan family struggles with paying off the land Grandfather Logan bought. Regardless of this struggle, there isn’t a single instance where one of the Logan family members regrets having their own land.
Other black families like the Averys who sharecrop on the land of Mr. Granger are even worse off financially and while the Logans see the light at the end of the tunnel, the Averys have no hope for the future.

Characters in the book (especially Papa and Mama) but also the children are very proud of owning their own land. Papa especially tries to teach Cassie and her brothers how very precious it is and how it can’t be taken for granted as a black family in the south of the U.S. during the 30’s.
Symbolically the ownership of the land can be seen as a departure from slavery since slaves – by definition – do not own anything.

 

 

Children don’t understand racism

The Logan children are confronted with racism on a daily basis and whilst they don’t understand the reason they are being treated as less, throughout the story they learn more and more about what it means to be black.

The kids react very different when confronted with racism: Little Man is furious when he discovers that the books are given to them only because they are in such a bad shape that white kids wouldn’t want them. Before knowing this fact he doesn’t seem to mind the shabby books too much, but as soon as he discovers the injustice, which racism almost always brings forth, he is furious.

Cassie doesn’t understand why the incident with Lillian happened in the first place, and why she was expected to be the one apologizing. She is genuinely confused about it and even as Mama tries to explain how white people like Lillian and Lillian’s father see black people, she still has difficulties understanding their motives.
The fact that Lillian is seen as better by most (white) people turns Cassie’s world upside down.

Concepts like racism that are often handed down to children over generations are only adopted by them because they try to mimic their parents and their attitude in general.
The book shows this by the example of Jeremy who is a white boy but still tries to befriend the Logan children. In the novel he is portrayed as a quiet child who gets beaten up by the other white kids for spending time with the Logan kids.

Cassie and her brothers see him as a lonely and shy boy who doesn’t behave the way the rest of the white kids want him to. They see the negative consequences Jeremy has to suffer just for being around them.This suggests to them that being racist is a norm by which white people are expected to live or suffer punishment.