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Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Jus' can't understand how it feels t' have a white daddy, that's all. Can't figure out how you could love a white daddy who owned your mama and you. Can't figure out how you can be so crazy 'bout them white brothers of yours neither, when once y'all grown, they'll be the boss and you'll be jus' another nigger.

Paul and Mitchell have this conversation in the third chapter, "Family," after Mitchell defends Paul to a band of black boys picking on him for reading. With these words, Mitchell explains some of his early scorn for Paul—he sees Paul as a dupe, fooled by his white family into believing a fantasy that will disintegrate by the time he is an adult. From Mitchell's perspective, Paul has overlooked and forgiven the fact that his father once owned slaves and took his mother as a mistress without her consent. Paul has traded his indignation and fury at his father's lifestyle for physical ease and the promise that he is, in essence, white. Of course, Mitchell is much less sheltered than Paul, having experienced the sharp sting of racist oppression. Mitchell has a truer, more objective picture of Paul's family's priorities. Mitchell's predictions come true. Once Paul's family reveals their true loyalties, Paul understands that family bonds are less resilient than bonds of race.

"You've got to learn, Paul, and you've got to learn now, you don't ever hit a white man. Ever … You best be remembering, Paul, you're not white, much as you might look it." "Well, that's not my fault, is it? That's yours and my mama's."

Paul and his father exchange these portentous remarks in the fourth chapter, "Betrayal." This exchange marks a turning point for Paul—originally he believed that his father considered him and Robert as equals, and afterward he realizes that his family considers him a black man, especially in public. In his retorts, Paul first clings to the fiction that he and Robert are the same, asserting that if Robert is a man, he is also, since the boys are the same age and have similar education, skills, and temperament. When his father shatters this illusion, Paul frantically names the people he blames for his complicated racial heritage: his mother and his father. His father, after all, saw fit to have a sexual relationship with a black woman, knowing that any children resulting from the union would have to bear the special burdens of a mixed racial heritage. Paul resents both his parents for lacking the restraint and foresight to prevent such children from being born. Later in the chapter, we discover that Paul is deeply confused and conflicted by his mother's role in the relationship. He longs to pardon her but is angry at her for participating in a sexual relationship with her white master. In this exchange, however, Paul implies that he understands that his mother had little or no choice about the relationship.

I was awed by what I saw. All around me was emerald green, and above that, God's own bluest skies, blessed only with two or three perfect rolls of pillow-like clouds … For the first time since I'd left my daddy's land, my heart soared, higher than any mountain I'd ever imagined, up to God's own perfect clouds, and I felt a peace come over me.

In the sixth chapter, "The Land," Paul wakes up to find himself on the land that he immediately knows he must own. Paul feels an instantaneous love for and connection with the land and feels exalted by its beauty. On this spot of land where Paul sleeps, he will later bury Mitchell. Paul will propose to Caroline by the lake, and Caroline—Big Ma of Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry—will, in the course of that novel, bring her granddaughter Cassie out to this lake and tell Cassie the story of her and Paul's courtship. Paul finds himself on the land by chance: he sleeps on that particular spot only because he is exhausted and can walk no longer. For a moment, Paul's troubled life is blessed, and he experiences communion with the divine. Paul is not used to getting what he wants easily and without working for it, and he does not hesitate to devote the next decade of his life to obtaining this land, which has at this moment exalted his soul. This passage is the most explicitly religious passage in the book, and in it we see that Paul recognizes and accepts divine blessings but does not depend on them. He merely uses blessings as guides for appropriate action.

Then she said to me, "You know, Mitchell done thought the world of you, Paul- Edward. He said he done figured you his family." "Figured him the same," I said. "Y'all was good friends." "No," I said. "Not just friends. Brothers."

This passage is from the tenth chapter of the book, when Paul and Caroline pause and mourn Mitchell's death in the midst of their intensified struggles to hold onto Granger's forty acres. Paul and Mitchell have previously referred to each other as "family" and "brothers," but never as clearly and unequivocally as in this passage. In the first several chapters of the book, Paul defends his brothers and father to Mitchell, asserting that they would never betray him because they are "family." Although Paul loses his faith in his white family in subsequent chapters, he does not lose his faith in the unbreakable ties between humans. Paul learns to replace ties of blood kinship with ties of spiritual and/or racial kinship. Paul and Mitchell are, in a sense, truer brothers than Paul and Robert, as Paul and Mitchell have repeatedly risked their lives to protect each other.

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