Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
Did we mention that we're dealing with some pretty heavy stuff in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry? Because we are. In the end, T.J. has been taken away to jail for killing Mr. Barnett, and Papa has started a fire that saved T.J. (temporarily) but destroyed a lot of his cotton crop. T.J. will probably be hanged; the Simms brothers will get off scot-free. And then there's the very last line:
I cried for T.J. For T.J. and the land. (12.167)
The land, too, has been unfairly punished: keep in mind that by starting the fire, Papa has ruined a good portion of his own cotton crop. Remember all the references to red mud and Big Ma saying that the family's blood was in the land (4.237)? In this final paragraph, the connection that Taylor has drawn between the people and the land becomes clear. Crystal clear.
And Cassie grieves for both—and the unfairness and sheer waste of it all.