My essay is based on the novel “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” which is set in Mississippi in the 1930s where whites have the authority to obtain control of black citizens. Mildred Taylor describes in her novel the racial hatred that the whites felt for blacks. This racial hatred insisted on white superiority in every aspect of life. For example the whites did not want blacks to own property or black people were not welcome in places reserved for whites.
Also for those who stepped out of line, they lived in fear of the ‘Night men’ or Ku Klux Klan who dealt out there own brand of justice; which often meant a lynching without any trial. The story is narrated by Cassie, the nine-year-old-daughter of David and Mary Logan. Therefore the entire novel is seen from Cassie’s perspective. As she is a child, this brings a fresh, spontaneous, direct style to the events, but at the same time it narrows our responses. This also affects the structure of the novel as Cassie needs to hear and experience everything that goes on around her, either directly (i.
e. she is present) or indirectly (i. e. she hears it from someone else or eavesdrops). The main racial events in the book happen in different places: the Logan home; the Great Faith Elementary School; in Strawberry; in the white stores owned by Mr Wallace and Mr Barnett; on the land of Mr Harlan Granger; and on the long, dusty or muddy route to school. I have chosen to write about the event which took place in the market at Strawberry, where Cassie notices the discrepancy involving the black and white races.
I decided to base my essay on Strawberry because this chapter was one of the key incidents where Cassie experiences the inequality between the two races and how the whites treat or distinguish black individuals. In the first part of Chapter 5, Big Ma takes Stacey, Cassie, and T. J. to Strawberry to sell ‘butter, milk and eggs’ early in the morning at 3:30am. When they arrive, Cassie is vastly disappointed; it ‘was nothing like a tough, sprawling bigness’ she had envisioned. She anticipated the town as a modern and bustling community. Instead it was just ‘a sad, red place’.
As they drove by shops they entered to a ‘wide field with wooden stalls’. Near the entrance were already several wagons and pickups already parked. However, Big Ma drove to the other side of the field where only two wagons were stationed. Cassie was inquisitive to why Big Ma parked in an isolated spot: ”What the devil we doing way back here then! Can’t nobody see us’. ‘Them’s white folks’ wagons”, replies Big Ma. This is a very significant quote because Mildred Taylor shows us that black people weren’t authorized to park their wagons near the entrance just because of the colour of their skin.
There was no integrity for black people. The black person was always regarded as the guilty party. As a result the white people were virtually at liberty to treat black people as they wished. ‘Now, hush up and help me get this food out’. This quote shows us that Big Ma doesn’t want a loud conversation and it suggests that it is not safe to take any chances. This is Cassie’s first confrontation that introduces her to racism outside her immediate environment. Later on Big Ma goes to see Mr. Jamison at his office to do business with him.
T. J is disgusted that Big Ma wants to see ‘that ole white man’. T. J. attempts to persuade Stacey so that they can go to the mercantile store. Stacey, foolishly, is influenced and goes along with T. J. ‘s initiative without paying attention to Cassie when she reminds him that Big Ma said ‘stay here! ‘ Big Ma wanted them to stay out of trouble, since they are not wise enough to deal and be able to cope with white racists if they were to be in dilemma. As T. J. , Stacey and Cassie enter ‘The Barnett Mercantile’, T. J.directs them towards a counter at the far corner of the room.
T. J. is mesmerized by the ‘pearl-handled’ gun which lay under the glass-top counter. Our attitude towards T. J. is becoming more and more negative. His behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing because he says: ‘I get me that gun and nobody gonna mess with me. I wouldn’t need nobody’. T. J. ‘s words hold great irony as at the end of the novel he is involved in an armed robbery. And in the sequel to ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry’, ‘Let the Circle be Unbroken’, he goes on trial for murder. T. J.hands his list over to Mr.
Barnett who studies the list then walks over to another counter and begins filling the order, but before he finishes a white woman calls, ‘Mr Barnett, you waiting on anybody just now? ‘ Mr Barnett turns around, ‘Just them,’ he says indicating them ‘with a wave of his hand’. This biased comment confers on us the idea that Mr Barnett does not show any respect or value towards Cassie, Stacey or TJ as customers treating them with insolence and contempt. After Mr Barnett had finished filling the order for the white woman, he picked up T. J.
‘s list, but before he had moved on to the next item his wife calls for him and he walks off to help her out. So they waited anxiously several minutes for his return. Stacey could not loiter any longer for Mr Barnett to arrive and serve T. J. , therefore he marches outside with Cassie. Conversely, Cassie turns around and decides to remind Mr Barnett about T. J. ‘s order as he might have forgotten about it. She walks up to him and clarifies the circumstances, but he doesn’t look up, so she tugs on his ‘shirt sleeve to get his attention’. He ‘recoiled’ as if she had struck him.