On the surface, Roll of Thunder comes across as a book about a young girl growing up in the south several decades ago and her experiences throughout. A closer look reveals a great and dynamic piece of historical fiction and mountain of knowledge about American society’s past. Below is a list of famous quotes from the book analyzed in an effort to drive home the author’s message behind the words. These quotes also highlight what life was like for those living in America post-Civil War.
“Papa always meant what he said and he swung a mean switch.”
Although papa worked away from home for extended periods, his authoritative style of parenting resonated with his children even from miles across the Mississippi. Papa commanded respect from his children by giving them an equal amount of love and discipline. Cassie and her brothers knew that whatever wrong they did while papa was away was due a swift and justified rectification. In earlier decades, black and white parents alike had the same reputation with their children, and those children still hold the same unshakeable respect for their parents to this day even if their parents have passed on.
“Biting the hand that feeds you. That’s what you’re doing Mary Logan, biting the hand that feeds you.”
Again Mama laughed. “If that’s the case, Daisy, I don’t think I need that little bit of food.”
During the Jim Crow era, many blacks believed that the only way to survive in the Deep South was to fall in line and do as the white man told you, take what he gave you, and show gratitude regardless of how worn and tattered the discarded items were that you received. Racist southern whites redacted fear upon blacks in systematic acts of terrorism in their communities with the sole purpose of exalting complete submission from blacks who they truly believed where inferior to them, disallowing them to accept pride from blacks.
Based on this dialogue between Ms. Crocker and Mary Logan, ask yourself why Mary would risk upsetting whites in the county who controlled the black schools, risking her jobs and the safety of her family?
“Roll of Thunder hear my cry, Over the water bye and bye, Ole man coming down the line, Whip in hand to beat me down, But I ain’t gonna let him turn me ’round.”
This quote from a Negro spiritual, rings clear the adamantly, faithful attitude of upward mobility that blacks possessed for mere survival during this era. In the same quote, there is a reminder of the subservient attitude blacks had to show towards whites in Spokane County, and most areas of the south. Their choice was to submit willingly, or have it beaten into them, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, and sometimes a combination of all three, in the years after emancipation.
Like their parents, the Logan children, and all the other black children in the county, have to live amongst constant reminders of how fleeting their freedoms in life truly are. In each book by Taylor, you will read of the fear that blacks faced in the years after the American Civil War through to the civil rights movement.
“You see that fig tree over yonder, Cassie?” . . . . . . “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.”
In the face of adversity, Papa remains steadfast in his beliefs and ideals. Although the shopping in Vicksburg has halted for now because of the whites, he will not give up. He sees their actions as only a bump in the road towards his goals for his family and the people in his community. Papa is saying to Cassie that he will not give up and neither should she. Like the tree, he and his family are small in number compared to all the whites who want nothing more than to see them fail. But neither Papa, nor the other blacks, will give up, in spite of the horrifying ways whites try to control and hurt them through lynchings, burnings, and beatings.
Each book in the Mildred Taylor collection is a viable tool useful for invoking introspective thinking in readers. After reading each quote and analysis, find other quotes from the book to find the message behind the words within them to come up with your own Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry study guide. Additional articles for further enrichment are clickable in the Roll of Thunder series found below.
This post is part of the series: Tips and Strategies for “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”
- Famous Quotes from "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry"
- Valuable Tips for Writing a Paper on "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry"