Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- So, we know that the main narrative takes place during the 1930s, a pretty bleak time in American history, especially if you lived in the South. And were black. But, the book's main action is tied in with both the past and the future: slavery (an even bleaker period) and the Black Power movement of Mildred D. Taylor's own time period (things are starting to look up!). What do you think Taylor is doing by juggling two different time periods in her book? And what is the novel trying to say about learning from history and making a better future?
- The Logans seem to have some more comfortable home furnishings (relatively speaking) and no real shortage of food, compared to some of the other characters. In what other ways are the Logans more fortunate than the other black families in the area? Are they more fortunate than the poorer white families (think: the Simms family)? What do you think has made them a bit better off than some of the others? Is it just their land ownership, or is something else going on?
- You've probably heard your parents or grandparents tell the whole, "In my day, I had to walk sixteen miles to school, uphill both ways, and in the snow year round..." type of sob stories about their youth. But Cassie's parents and grandparents have the real deal in the novel—their hardships are certainly not exaggerated and the stakes are way higher. What is the effect of having Big Ma and other adults act as the "storytellers" in the book—the ones who tell the history of the land, families, the time of slavery, etc.?
- Harlan Granger seems crazy on a number of levels, but why in particular is he "crazy" about anything from before the Civil War? Why does he want his land to be exactly like it was before?
- Consider Mama's words to Cassie in light of T.J.'s actions: "[W]e have no choice of what color we're born or who our parents are or whether we're rich or poor. What we do have is some choice over what we make of our lives once we're here" (6.95). In what ways are T.J."s actions guided by circumstances completely out of his control? Is there any single poor decision that leads him irreversibly to his tragic ending?
- How would the book be different if it were told from Jeremy Simms's perspective? How might some of the themes be different? What might be lost?
- It's not every day that you see raccoon on the menu for a holiday dinner, but the novel does take place during the Depression, and times were tough. In what ways is the Logan family Christmas similar to or different from the types of holiday celebrations in your own family? Why?
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