Imagery and Symbolism in the Novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Hears My Cry has its setting in rural areas of Mississippi. We are not told of the city where Cassie and her family stay, but we are aware of the dominant red color in the dust, dirt, and mud that the Logan children get on them as they go to school. The book’s narration takes place in 1933, the worst record of the great depression (Bosmajian, 1996). Probably explains the poverty in most characters and the plight of the blacks during this period.

Nevertheless, the depression is not the only cause of poverty for these people. The characters were subjects of open racism and inequality, mostly in the south. The black characters were kept economically low because of sharecropping. Berry’s and Turners had no hope for redemption from poverty. The system was unfair such that they paid rent for the land they planted and still would forfeit a percentage on the profits they made. Compared, the Logan’s are just a little bit better. They own their land and exercise control at a certain level. This is still not in any way fulfilling as Mr. Granger is plotting to take their property away from them. But then, the blacks were rising; for instance, Mama was a trained teacher, and Hammer could afford a car from his excellent job in Chicago. This angered the whites who sought after any blacks who tried to rise above their expected situation. Racism is revealed through the narration. The author states “racist society he had grown up in.” This shows that the level of racism had significantly increased.

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The narration by a nine-year-old Cassie is limiting to a certain extent. Thankfully, Cassie is curious. She builds the plot with information by eavesdropping, listening to gossip and lectures from Mama, Papa and Uncle Hammer. For instance, she got information about Berry’s attack on the church from her eavesdropping. The author chose a child to take us through the narration so that we appreciate the child’s innocence in such a hostile environment and we may learn along with Cassie. For example where Cassie is shouted at,” Cassie! Sit down and be quiet”, this show her perseverance despite living in a harsh environment.

The book creates fictional characters in a real-life setting of a previous period hence a conclusion that the genre is historical fiction. In as much as Taylor was inspired by the experience of her father & grandfather, Cassie and her family are entirely fictional in a geographic location that still exists today at a past period. The oppression of the blacks in the 1930’s is real hence an accurate social, cultural context of the said time. With the narration by Cassie, Taylor can address several childhood dilemmas like trying to understand adults and why they do not involve children in some situations (Barker, 2010). We see a transitional narration. Readers can only relate with Cassie at nine years and not as a teenager or as an adult the children are required to obey their elder one, for example,” Do quick, Cassie, as I say.” She is required to follow the commands given by Mr. Mor. She learns to navigate through some severe challenges in life at a tender age like racism battles which she does not fully comprehend at this time.

The author takes a very severe and moderate approach in her narration. She has not exaggerated her message or overemphasized on the black’s oppression. She lets us in on the events and lets us decide for ourselves. She gently navigates the reader through brutal discrimination scenes and makes the interactions build up in our imagination. For instance, Big Ma forces an apology from Cassie to Ms. Lilian Jean in a humiliating way. Nonetheless, the author did not make our journey all sad in misery as we read about some pretty heart melting moments like the joy in Logan’s Christmas celebrations.

The writer takes a simple approach in her conversations in the book. The plan is real-life relatable hence the text is easy to read and heightens the pace of the book. Notwithstanding, she has also used complex descriptions in her writing that bring out her literary touches like her description of Mama.

The book’s title describes how the Logan family and Mr. Morrison are rising to the plight of the blacks that is slowly becoming a crisis. In fact, there existed negro-spiritual songs to encourage the slaves in captivity which the writer has brought it out beautifully as an epigraph. Over time, the songs became more rebellious to the whites oppression like the one in the book the blacks refuse to continue being submissive. In the end, the writer, through Cassie has been able to show the pain, anguish, and wastefulness of the land and the people. T.J had been taken to jail and would be probably hanged for killing Mr. Barnett, and the Simms brothers would be off free. Papa also sets out the fire on the cotton field in a desperate attempt to save T.J, but it is futile. Hence the writer’s last words that she weeps for T.J and the land. The black were mainly used as slaves on the farm since they are said to be bringing a lot of money,” breeding slaves brought a lot of money for them slaves owners.” The land is also punished since a right section of the crop was ruined which brings out the authors view that the people and the nation are connected.

Taylor has been able to give us a mix of a thrilling paced experience through her use of suspense, conflict and a great conclusion. In the beginning, she brings out exposition in the conflict zone of Mississippi. The racial tensions were so oppressive that some men were literary set on fire after allegedly talking to a white woman. But before the author brings us the full conflict we go through several narrations of enraging oppression like white kids going to school by bus and the black ones on foot (McDowell, 2002). We can see the solidarity of the community from the boycott of the Wallace store organized by Mama. The population rose against the action of the store in selling alcohol to minors and murderous raids. This boycott escalates to a conflict between the white and black communities and amongst the blacks themselves.

We then go through a series of T.J’s poor decision making when he leaks the information of the people behind the boycott leading to the shooting of Papa Logan. This also puts Mr. Morrison’s life in danger when two white men attack him over the same issue. The climax of the story is when the Simms brothers trick T.J into robbing Barnett’s pearl gun. Unlike the plan, the Simms brothers rough up the store owners and also beat up T.J after he threatened an expose on what transpired making a tragic ending. The violence is now known by entirely some people and the Wallace’s together with the Simms move to hang T.J, and a fire breaks out. The fire was started by Papa to save T.J but a non-rewarding attempt as he is taken away to strawberry to await his fate, where he is highly likely to be hanged and the Logan land lost.

Apart from a fantastic plot the writer has been able to incorporate imagery especially in the weather especially with the title ‘Thunder’ and brings out several other meteorological events such as lightning (Rasinski, 1990). The author depicts a situation where the black children walk to school in the rain as the white children bus splashes murky waters on them. This emphasizes on the inequality of their educational facilities, “Stacey snapped as the dust billowed in swirling clouds around my feet.” Mr. Morrison’s voice is also described as low thunder to signify the violence he will do in later chapters.

She used cars to symbolize power and terror. It was depicted as something to look up to by Big Ma and terrifying since the night men did not come in horses but roaring cars. Also, it was a status symbol as it showed Mr. Granger’s Opulence. The fig tree’s enduring nature depicts the Logan Family relationship with their land that it will tenaciously keep bearing fruit despite the hardships. Finally, the school bus is described as a “big yellow fire-breathing dragon”. It appears like a real living breathing creature that subjects other animals to torture. The author personifies the bus again after a sabotage plan lands the front wheel in a ditch. She likens it to ‘a lopsided billy goat on its knees’. The bus is compared to a beast due to the emotional oppression it put the black kids through, and a little revenge is gained when the white kids too have to walk miles in their shoes to school.

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