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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
by Mildred D. Taylor
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Chapter 4 Summary
It's Sunday, and Cassie is helping Big Ma churn butter. She overhears Mama and Big Ma talking about how the children have been acting unlike themselves lately. They seem to be especially worried about Cassie, and are afraid that she has seen something scary—like maybe the night men? Cassie almost falls off of a stool while she's listening to this, and breaks a butter mold. Oops. She goes in to hang out with the boys. T.J. is extolling the virtues of getting out of doing work. He's apparently pretty lazy. He again tries to get Stacey to give him the questions to the upcoming test in Mrs. Logan's class. When that doesn't work, T.J. tries to get the others to go down to the Wallace store for dancing. Okay, this T.J. kid sounds like bad news. Again, the Logan children won't take his bait. So, he starts talking about the night men. It turns out that the night men tarred and feathered Mr. Sam Tatum. Apparently, Mr. Tatum had called Mr. Barnett (the owner of the general store in Strawberry) a liar. Whew! It wasn't because of the bus then. Oops. Christopher-John said that out loud, and now Little Man is afraid that they'll be tarred and feathered because of the bus stunt. The kids catch T.J. snooping through Mama's room, probably looking for the test questions he's always on about. A bit of time passes, and Cassie, Little Man and Christopher-John want to visit Mr. Morrison. He now lives in a small shack on the Logan property that the kids clean for him sometimes. Anyone else thinking Hagrid, here? Gentle giant, living in a shack, friends with an intrepid band of kids? We find out that all of the Logan children genuinely like Mr. Morrison. Well, except for Stacey. Stacey thinks that Mr. Morrison is taking his place as "man of the house" while Papa is away. And "Man of the House" is obviously Stacey's job. As a seventh grader. The next day, on the way to school, T.J.'s all, "I'm going to cheat on the history test." He even has a cheat sheet, full of dates and other 411. This sounds like a Very Bad Plan. Stacey ain't havin' it, though, and rips that cheat sheet to shreds. No one makes a fool out of Mama. Here's hoping this means T.J.'s plan has been thwarted. We get the impression that Stacey honestly doesn't want T.J. to get into trouble for cheating. After school, Cassie, Christopher-John, Little Man and Claude are waiting for their older brothers. They see T.J. run out of the classroom like something's wrong. Little Willie Wiggins and Moe Turner tell them that Mrs. Logan whipped Stacey, because he was caught with cheat notes during the test. The notes were actually T.J.'s, but Stacey wouldn't tell on him. When Stacey comes out of the classroom, he's looking for T.J., who has gone to the Wallace store. The kids ignore all of Papa's whipping threats and head over to Wallace store. When they arrive there, the white men make racist remarks to the children. This should not come as a big surprise: Stacey finds T.J. and starts beating him up. Mr. Morrison is there, and breaks up the fight. On the way back home, Mr. Morrison makes it clear that he's not going to tell Mama that the Logan kids had disobeyed and were down at the Wallace store. Whew! Wait, what? He's instead going to make them tell this. Big Life Lesson Alert: Mr. Morrison points out that sometimes you have to fight. There's no getting around it. But they really need to stay away from the Wallace place. He again emphasizes that it's their responsibility to tell their mother about the incident, but he's leaving it up to them. Ugh, fine. Stacey agrees to tell her. As they drive up to their house, Mr. Granger's fancy car drives away. Big Ma reports that Mr. Granger is scheming to get some of their land again. Cassie and Big Ma stroll around their property, to a large grove of trees (some are cut down). Big Ma tells Cassie the story of how the Logans got their land: Paul Edward, Big Ma's husband, had bought two hundred acres of land from Mr. Hollenbeck. Apparently, Filmore Granger (Harlan Granger's dad) had to sell their land after Reconstruction, because they had no money. A guy named Mr. Hollenbeck purchased most of the land and then offered to sell it back to Filmore Granger for less than it was worth. But Mr. Granger was really cheap, and refused it. So, Mr. Hollenbeck sold it to whoever would buy it. Like Paul Edward. Charles Jamison also bought some of it. We find out that Charles Jamison was the father of Wade Jamison, who Cassie calls "our Mr. Jamison" (4.227). Wade Jamison sold another two hundred acres to Paul Edward (when he could have easily sold it for more money to Harlan Granger). Wade sounds like a nice guy. Big Ma talks more about the family's history: how she and Paul Edward raised six children (although only two are still alive), and worked hard on the land. The family's "blood's in this land" (4.236), even though Harlan Granger is always trying to get the land back. When Mama gets home that night, Stacey confesses about the incident at the Wallace store. Stacey's code of honor comes into play here: he only tells enough of the story to be truthful, and doesn't implicate Cassie, Christopher-John or Little Man. Still, it's off to bed early as punishment. The next morning, Mama loads all of the kids into the wagon bright and early. They're off to visit a very sick man who "doesn't look like other people" (4.245). The Logans bring them a variety of food and supplies. Clearly, this family is poor. It's Mr. Berry, one of the burn victims. He's so badly injured that he can't speak and doesn't even look human any more. It turns out that the Wallaces participated in the burning. Okay, it makes sense why Papa and Mama were so against their kids hanging out at the Wallace store. On the way home, the Logans stop off at a bunch of other people's houses. At each stop, Mama warns the people against the bad influence of the Wallaces and their store, which promotes drinking and smoking. She doesn't, however, directly mention what the Wallaces did to the Berrys. There seems to be some danger in coming right out and saying this. When they visit the Turner farm, we find out that some of the people have no choice about shopping at the Wallace store. Mama tells them that her family shops in Vicksburg. This seems to be completely out of reach for the Turner family, since it would require an overnight trip. Mama asks them if they would consider shopping there if someone could make the trip for them. This won't work. Since the Turner's landowners have credit at the Wallace store, they're basically forced to shop there. These are very poor people who don't have any cash. Plus, Mr. Montier (who owns the Turner land) charges 15% extra for "risk money" for signing for the Turners to have credit. Mr. Turner points out that the Logans are in a better position, because they own their own land. Mama comes up with the idea of someone else backing the Turners' credit. If she could find someone to do that, would they shop elsewhere? Mr. Turner tells how he was burned accidentally as a child, and how badly that hurt. He thinks it would be a horrible way to die.
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