Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
So, you think the Great Recession is bad? Try on the Great Depression for size. And if you think that's bad, try being a poor black family during the Great Depression. That's our situation in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. It's hard out here for these sharecroppers. They have to make a living at the mercy of wealthy landowners (and there's not much mercy there, trust us). Only one of the main black characters has a decent ride (Uncle Hammer), and the others get around in a horse and wagon. The school is lucky to get hand-me-down, beaten up, vandalized books, and most of the kids don't even have shoes to wear—they go barefoot during the week and save shoe-wearing for Sundays.
But don't think that only the African-American characters are poor. Most people, black and white, living in rural Mississippi during this time faced poverty. Taylor shows us that even some of the white children are skinny from lack of food (the Simms, for example).
Did we mention times are hard?
Questions About Poverty
- Who is making significant money in the novel? How can you tell? Are they doing this ethically?
- Let's say Mr. Granger's car is a symbol for wealth and status. How is Uncle Hammer's car different? Do they stand for the same things?
- In what ways is the Simms family worse off than the Logans?
- How are class distinctions shown among the black characters?
Chew on This
Taylor suggests that sharecropping is basically another form of slavery.
The poverty that the Logans suffer helps to bring them closer together. In this way, we might see it as a positive.