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A Review of Mildred D. Taylor’s Novel: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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“No Day in all my Life had ever been as Cruel as this one” Write about the first time Cassie is allowed to go to the market in Strawberry. What makes the day so cruel? From the very outset, Cassies trip was filled with disappointment, pain and anger. In that one day she discovered a lot about the racial prejudice. Here are the things she discovered. Before Cassies Strawberry experience she had a protected life. Her family protected her from racism.

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Cassie, Big Ma, Stacey and T.J. went to Strawberry because it was market day. On the second Saturday of every month Big Ma sold eggs and milk up in Strawberry. Cassie had never been to Strawberry before, but Big Ma finally allowed her to come. It was quite unexpected, she came into Cassies room and said, “Cassie, get up, child, if you gonna go to town with me.” Cassie was shocked, but excited about the trip ahead. T.J. came with them to Strawberry because his father, Mr Avery, asked Big Ma if he could go to Strawberry with them to buy a few things that were not at the Wallace store. Cassie revealed the only reason why she was going to Strawberry was because T.J was going to. Cassie was so excited because she had never gone to Strawberry before; she was expecting a wondrous place. Something she had only dreamed of. But was not she in for a shock.

When the family and T.J were all very tired and everyone was half asleep still, until Big Ma said, “Well, children, open your eyes and take in Strawberry, Mississippi!” Cassie was expecting to open her eyes and be amazed. She was amazed all right, amazed at how ordinary it was. You can tell she is thinking this when Cassie says, “Is this it?” She was filled with disappointment when she saw it. “Strawberry was nothing like the tough, sprawling, bigness I had envisioned. It was instead a sad, red place.” Cassie was not impressed. She though it would be it would be a very modern town for the time, but she was shocked to see how ordinary Strawberry was, we know this by when she says, “It sure ain’t nothing to shout about.” She had reason to be so discontented. The only thing modern about it was the paved road and a spindly row of electrical lines. Lining the road were strips of red dirt splotched with patches of brown grass and drying mud puddles. The shops were gloomy, set behind raised wooden sidewalks and sagging verandas. This was the first experience that her day so cruel. She also did not like T.J.’s, “Obnoxious behaviour.” Cassie had to leave at 3:30am to get to Strawberry by dawn. It was twenty-two miles, from their house to Strawberry. When they arrived at Strawberry, it was a disappointment for Cassie because she was expecting an exciting, bustling town, instead she described Strawberry as a, “Sad, red place.”

Big Ma parked their wagon on the far side of the field. Cassie did not understand this, she said, “Well, what the devil we doing way back here then! Can’t nobody see us.” This angered Big Ma, she knew why they were parked back here but did not want to tell Cassie. Big Ma replied to Cassie by saying, “You watch your mouth, girl.” She did not like Cassie mouthing off about this subject, especially with a lot of white folks about. Cassie kept on pestering Big Ma about moving nearer to the front by saying, “Theres plenty of room, and we could sell more.” Big Ma snapped and said, “Them’s white folks’ wagons, Cassie.” This surprised her; she was only beginning to learn how much racial tension there was.

Big Ma was then getting ready to visit Mr Jamison. Cassie wanted to see him, she said, “Can’t I just go up and say, hey?” Cassie liked Mr jamison and was not scared to admit it, she liked the way, if you asked him a question, he would give you a straight answer, just like her papa. When Big Ma replied, “I’m gonna hey you, you keep pesterin me.” This upset Cassie, she could not see the harm in just going in to say hi. She didnt realise that Big Ma was going to him to talk about very important business that she didnt want the children to know about. This was another cruel event that made Cassies day a bad one. The next event was when T.J. suggested that they should get out the wagon and go to the mercantile. He said, “Why dont we go on down to the mercantile and look around?” This was disobeying Big Ma’s orders of staying in the wagon. Cassie did not want to go, but Stacey was undecided, he said, “I dont know, I think Big Ma wanted to go with us.” But he persuades him by saying, “Ah, shoot, man, we’ll be doin her a favour.” This persuades Stacey. She didn’t want to be left alone, so she was forced to follow Stacey and T.J. into the mercantile. T.J said he wanted a gun for protection, by saying, “It’s for protection.” Cassie didn’t understand, she needed to suffer racism herself to really understand why T.J. is going to such drastic measures, although his measures are too extreme. Cassie was upset by the way that she got treated in the shop. Mr Barnett was filling their order when a white woman asked if he was waiting on anyone, he replied, “Just them,” he replied, waving his hand vaguely in the children’s direction. This incensed Cassie and she protested, “What’s he doing?” She did not understand why, although she could understand because it was an adult and she excepted that adults got priority over children. He continued to fill their order, but again he left their order when he was called over to help someone else. She was mad because, “And as if we were not even there, he walked away.” They were about to go out because they were fed up with waiting, when Cassie was Mr Barnett filling an order for a little white girl. This made her angry as she couldn’t understand why she got served first, when she is the same age as them. Stacey and T.J. knew why but didnt want to tell her in the shop in case she lost her temper. The first time she asked Mr Barnett about their order he ignored her, “Did not look up.” She then proceeded to tug on his shirt and, “He recoiled as if I had struck him.” The word recoiled is used to refer back to the violence because recoiling is an action of reloading a gun. She then said, “It ain’t fair, you got no right.” He then shouts out, “Whose little nigger is this!” Being called a nigger was an insult. Cassie was distraught by this remark and screamed, “I ain’t nobody’s little nigger!” Cassie can’t believe the abuse she is getting, but does not know when to stop because this is the first time she has experienced racism. Mr Barnett then told Stacey too not, “Come back till yo’ mammy teach her what she is.” He is describing black people as objects and not human beings. When they got back outside again Cassie said, “You know he was wrong!” Stacey the replied, “I know it and you know it, but he don’t know it, and that’s where the trouble is.” Stacey is saying that they think it is natural to treat blacks like that and that they have no morals, but they can’t help that because nobody ever tells them it is wrong. Her experience brought the reality of racism home to her. Still angry from the mercantile incident, she was not concentrating when walking and bumped into Lillian Jean. Although Cassie apologised by saying, “I’m sorry.” Although she apologised, Lillian Jean demanded a humiliating apology from Cassie by saying she should walk in the dirty road. She remarked that by walking in the road, “You won’t be bumping into decent white folks with your little nasty self.” The fact that Lillian Jean feels that she has some kind of natural right to treat Cassie this way tells us a lot about how many white children were raised and the values their parents taught them. Mr Simm’s who demanded she apologised to Lillian Jean at once then threw her to the road. Mr Simm’s said, “When my gal Lillian Jean says for you to get yo’self off the sidewalk, you get, you hear?” He was a very scary man and Cassie didnt want to be rude to him. She was scared. The final insult of the day was when Big Ma came back and saw the mess Cassie had got herself into. Mr Simm’s said, “Tell her aunty.” This was a very disrespectful way of talking to Big Ma. Big Ma said, “Go on child..apologise.” Cassie appalled by the way Big Ma didn’t support her in that situation. Only later does Cassie come to understand how little choice in the matter Big Ma had. Big ma knew how exposed she was. Like the incident in the Barnett store, Cassie is angered by the way she has been treated, but more by what she sees as betra

yal and a deliberate lack of support from her own family. Cassie was upset because Big Ma did not stick up for her in the Lillian Jean incident. She was too young to understand that she had no choice. These were the cruel things that happened in the day. First of all T.J was coming with them, which she found very, irritating. Her second disappointment of the day was that she was expecting Strawberry to be an amazing, modern place, but instead it was very ordinary and wondered if it was at all worth it going. Her third disappointment of the day was when Big Ma parked her wagon at the back of the field when there was plenty of room near the front, but Big Ma did this for a reason. She did it because she knew that she was not allowed to park near the front because that is where the white folk parked. Of course Cassie did not know this, so she was puzzled. Another disappointment was when Big Ma was going to see Mr Jamison and Cassie was not allowed to say hello to him, she was upset because he was the only white man that she got on with, he was fair and looked beyond skin colour. Cassie was upset about how she was treated in the Mercantile. She had to wait along time to get served, and when she did, Mr Barnett served a little white girl before her. She was very upset by this because she could not understand why he was serving her first. The final insult was when she was made to apologise to Lillian Jean when there was not a good a good reason for her to do so. This is why the day has been cruel.

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