In the book “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry” Eleven-year-old Cassie Logan and her family live in 1930’s Mississippi, where there is an intense tension between the white and black residents. This has resulted in a large amount of inequality and racism directed to the black people. Through the book Cassie and her three brothers learn how cruel the white’s prejudice towards the black’s can be. T. J. Avery is Cassie’s older brother Stacey, best friend and is introduced into the story a few pages into the first chapter. T. J. is 14 years old and is one of eight children.
His family is not very wealthy and Taylor gives evidence of this by describing T. J. and his little brother Claude’s poor appearance “Their Sunday clothing, patched and worn, hung loosely upon their frail frames”. The Avery family lived and sharecropped on Harlan Granger’s land. Harlan Granger being a very rich white man that paid black people low wages to work on his land. But with the little cash that he paid them he received back because his black employees also lived on his land and therefore had to pay rent. This detail also gives proof of the family’s poverty.
Unlike Cassie’s household when it came to whom served out the children’s punishment. It was Fannie Avery, T. J’s mother, who gave the Avery children corporal punishment, not T. J’s father. Joe Avery was a very ill man and didn’t have the strength to punish his children; this must of put a lot of pressure on the Mother. She wouldn’t have been able to watch over all eight children (of which four were not yet in school) on her own and care for her sick husband. So what I am made to assume is, that there was a lack of control over the children in T. J’s home. A type of control which is obvious in Cassie’s home.
Great Faith Elementary School and Secondary School was one of the biggest black schools in the county, consisting of 320 students, seven teachers and a principal. Most of the family’s children that worked on Granger land attended Great Faith. T. J. was no acceptation. He was in the same class as Stacey and Mrs. Logan was their teacher. T. J. was made to repeat the class again because he had failed his final exams the year before. Where T. J. is first introduced into the book, Stacey is pondering over the fact that his mother (Mary Logan) is his teacher for the year.
Here T. J.tries to make Stacey see the so-called “positive” side of having his Mum as his teacher. He says to Stacey, “You’ll be learnin’ all sorts of stuff’fore the rest of us…. ” What T. J. is attempting to hint to Stacey, is that with his mother being his teacher he can get all the answers to the tests and homework etc. In other words cheat. But Stacey has none of it and replies, “If that’s what you think, you don’t know Mama. ” From this information we can already tell what type of character T. J. is. He has lack of potential this is proved to me by his poor academic ability he had to repeat Mrs Logan’s class.
Also from his weak effort to persuade Stacey to cheat I suspect that because of his inability at school he would resort to cheating, this would also make him dishonest. As we continued on in the book Taylor gives me many incidents involving T. J. in particular which demonstrate my original theories on his character. When he is first introduced he boasts about how he defied his mother’s wishes and went dancing at the Wallace’s store. But Cassie had told her mother, who then went and informed Mrs Avery. That morning T. J’s mother questioned T. J. about his whereabouts, and to get out of being punished he blamed his little brother Claude.
T. J. tells his mother, “Ole Claude was always sneakin’ up there to get some free candy”. He continues, “I had to go and get him ’cause I knowed good and well she didn’t want us up there”. Now after telling his mum this lie it is apparent that his brother Claude is punished instead of T. J.. On the way to school this is what he chooses to talk about. He is proud of his dishonesty, he laughs about it. Nevertheless Stacey was not impressed by T. J’s stunt. He thought that it was unfair and unjust therefore responded by shaking his head.
A couple of pages into chapter four, where T.J. is at the Logan’s house boasting about how he has lied to his mother so he can get out of doing the house work. He brags, “See fellows, there’s a system to getting out of work. Jus’ don’t be ’round when it’s got to be done. ” By reading a few lines of T. J’s conversation my point about his dishonesty is already being strengthened. A few days later Mrs Logan would be setting T. J’s class a test, now with HIS’s poor academic ability he attempts again to provoke Stacey into cheating. Just a couple of lines after his boasts he approaches Stacey with his idea.
He starts with, “See, if you was smart like me, Stacey, you’d use the old brain to get the questions on that big test comin’ up” Laziness. Instead he would rather persuade his best friend into stealing the answers from his own mother. He can’t be bothered to revise for the test, he thinks that it would be much easier to cheat. This shows that the boy isn’t very bright, because of his inability’s he resorts to cheating. The day of the history test, T. J. met Stacey on the main road as usual. After he had given Little Man his daily tease, he asked Stacey if he was prepared for the test.
Stacey replied by saying that he had revised but had problems remembering the dates. Once again this only led T. J. to exaggerate his achievements. He goes on to say, “Betcha I could help ya, of you be nice”. T. J. then pulls out the answers for the test that he had stolen from Mrs Logan the day that he was at the Logan home provoking Stacey. For the third time in the book Stacey shows his non-amusement for T. J’s stunts and displays his maturity by ripping up the answers, so that T. J. will be unable to cheat.
However when school has ended Cassie, Christopher – John and Little Man are waiting for Stacey and T. J.so they can go home. When T. J. suddenly appears and runs off without saying a word. The rest of the class soon flooded out after him yelling, “There he go! ” The three children feeling a tad bewildered asked Little Willie what was going on.
Little Willie explains that Mrs Logan whipped Stacey in front of the whole class because she had caught him with cheat notes. Cassie and her brothers are astonished at this because they knew that Stacey would never resort to cheating and questioned their mother’s actions. Little Willie explains further, he goes on to say that Mrs Logan gave Stacey a chance to get out of it.
“But Stacey wouldn’t tell on ole T. J. , and you know good and well ole T. J. wasn’t ’bout to say them notes was his. ” Cassie and the others were still confused because they saw Stacey tear up T. J’s cheat notes themselves. But Little Willie confessed that he had seen T. J. in the woods that morning writing out another set. From this event Mildred Taylor makes me think that T. J. is not only unjust but also cowardly. He let his best friend be humiliated in front of the whole class for something he had done and didn’t have the courage to own up. The episode also helps me to understand Stacey’s character.
He is only twelve years of age but several times leading up to the test he displays his maturity and responsibility. When T. J. boasts about his conquests, Stacey shows no encouragement. He thinks that the way T. J. behaves is morally wrong, (Disobeying his mother and cheating) and is not afraid to tell T. J. this. Even though T. J. is two years older than he is. Stacey knows the difference between right and wrong and doesn’t let himself get easily influenced by T. J. Apart from once when Stacey’s Uncle Hammer bought him a new wool coat for Christmas.