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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Mildred D. Taylor

Chapter 4

Chapters 2-3

Chapters 5-6

Summary

Cassie and her brothers sulk for a week after the bus incident. They feel very guilty, but are determined not to confess. Finally, they learn from the always-gossiping T. J. that the white men were riding for a different reason that night. They are relieved.

On the way to school, T. J. shows Stacey a cheat sheet he has made. They are both in Mama's class. Stacey rips it up, but T. J. makes another one at lunch. During the test, he takes it out, and as Mama approaches, he passes it to Stacey. Stacey takes the blame, because his honor won't let him tell on T. J. However, after school he chases T. J. to the Wallace store and starts to beat him up until L. T. passes by and breaks up the fight. He says he won't tell on Stacey and the other children for going to the Wallace store, because he expects them to decide for themselves whether or not to tell Mama.

As they approach the house, Harlan Granger's silver car passes by. Big Ma says he has been bothering her about the land again. She wanders off to the wood and Cassie follows her. Big Ma tells about how her deceased husband, Paul Edward, bought the land with hard-earned money when the Grangers were poor, after Reconstruction. She tells how smart Paul Edward was and how proud he was of the land.

That evening, Stacey tells his mother about going to the Wallace store. His code of honor prevents him from explaining that it was really T. J. who cheated on the test. She doesn't punish them immediately; instead, she takes them on a special errand that Saturday. They go to visit one of the Berrys who survived the burning but is still badly burned. He had no nose or hair and his skin is badly burned. Afterwards, she explains that it was the Wallace brothers who burned the Berrys. Then they go from home to home, urging other families not to shop at the Wallace store, not mentioning the burning. Most agree. Mr. Turner explains that he has credit at the Wallace store. Mama asks if he would patron another store if someone else gave him credit, and he says he would deeply consider it.

Commentary

This long chapter is largely concerned with honor and punishment. At the beginning of the chapter, the children feel guilty for inciting the white men, until they learn that it was not their fault. In this case, they do not confess their wrongdoing. Next, Stacey is caught with a cheat sheet, and although he was merely trying to keep T. J. from cheating, he accepts the blame. In front of the entire class, his mother, the teacher, whips him. It is an extreme form of embarrassment. When L. T. catches him fighting near the Wallace store, he at first asks L. T. whether he will tell his Mama. When L. T. tells the children that that decision is up to them, the youngest three are eager not to tell Mama. Stacey, however has learned his lesson, and he decides to tell his mother that he was near the Wallace store. This shows how his sense of personal duty and honor have developed over the course of the chapter.

Also, we see that Stacey's sense of honor is for the best. It leads to Mama's decision to start an informal boycott of the Wallace store. Again, we see a similarity between the personal actions of the Logan family and the reality of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Although the author, Mildred Taylor, says that a great deal of the novel was inspired by her family's oral tradition, it also seems likely that she wanted to explain the ethics and excitement of the Civil Rights movement, with which she was actively involved.

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