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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and To Kill a Mockingbird

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In the 1930’s the people of America struggled after the Wall Street Crash. The Wall Street Crash had caused a recession or what was known as the Great Depression which had endured for a decade afterwards and had a worldwide effect.

The American Civil War had recently ended and slavery had been abolished. The depression had made it difficult for both white and black people to find work. The competition for jobs increased racism in certain parts of the white community. In the southern states the price of cotton fell affecting white incomes and further driving black families unto destitution

“Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry” is seen through the eyes of a young black girl, Cassie. Cassie has a strong supportive family who live in a very racially prejudiced society. The story is set in the 1930’s and set in the period of the Great Depression. The novel begins portraying how fortunate Cassie’s grandfather was to buy four hundred acres of land, but later she emphasizes how difficult it is for her family to retain the land they own. Cassie’s father was forced to travel far north, south and west to find work to enable him to support both his family and his land. However despite how difficult it is for Cassie’s family, Cassie is very fortunate compared to T.J, whose family lives by sharecropping and has to earn money by living as a farming tenant.

The inequalities in black and white schooling are clearly presented. The author distinctly illustrates that the white children have better and more advanced schooling facilities and equipment. The white children attend Jefferson Davis County School. Jefferson Davis was the former president who served and later seceded from the union. Jefferson Davis firmly approved of and endorsed the oppression of the black race; his motive for secession was that the war later declared against the union. The implication of the school being named after the president of the confederacy is that the community and its leaders support segregation and oppression of blacks

The contrast to this school is Great Faith Elementary one of the largest black schools in the country, and a dismal end to an hour’s journey. Great Faith consists of four weather-beaten wooden houses on stilts of brick. The disparity between the schools is that the Board of Education blatantly has no concern for the education of the black children at Great Faith Elementary or the quality and state of facilities. Great Faith Elementary is funded mainly by the black church. The Board of Education contributes very little funding. The black children have no school transport. Each day the children walk for one hour, other unfortunate children are required to walk three and half hours.

A clear example of the State’s prejudice is revealed by the condition of the books at Great Faith. Both Cassie and Little Man are greatly offended by the prejudiced chart displayed on the inside cover where they come to find that the school book has been passed down from 1922 when condition was new. At the bottom is 1933 where the condition is very poor and the book has been issued to the race nigra. What clearly demonstrates the Board of Education’s racial discrimination is the use for the column Race of Student. Cassie explains that the books have been given to Great Faith solely because they were not considered fit to be used at the white schools. Miss Crocker doesn’t perceive the chart to be racist which indicates that she has experienced too much racism and that she is accustomed to accepting prejudice as she clearly demonstrates by punishing Cassie for her views. Mrs. Logan also covers the chart, intending to cover them all. Miss Crocker is outraged by the act, accusing her of being ungrateful, and risking the school by damaging property belonging to the Board of Education. Mrs. Logan simply replies no-one will be concerned

Mama laughed and picked up the other book. “In the first place no one cares enough to come down here, and in the second place if anyone should come, maybe he could see all the things we need–current books for all our subjects, not just somebody’s old throwaways, desks, paper, blackboards, erasers, maps, chalk…”

Mrs. Logan illustrates to the reader that in Great Faith elementary there is clearly a huge lack of school supplies. Mrs. Logan is disliked by many teachers because her views are considered by other teachers as eccentric and unorthodox however the irony is that Mrs. Logan’s views are conventional and normal as Mrs. Logan is emotionally strong enough to stand up for her rights and be assertive. Other teachers are too weak.

When Cassie reminds Mr. Barnett that she and Stacey deserve to be served by him first, she is appalled and infuriated by Mr. Barnett’s response. Cassie had anticipated that Mr. Barnett would understand the unfairness of the situation and serve her however Cassie was only enraged and saddened by Mr. Barnett’s racist remark and by the unfairness of treatment. Mr. Barnett humiliates Cassie’s by addressing her as a little nigger, and bellowing at her with hostility and spite.

Mr. Barnett addresses Cassie racially and uses racial epithets to create the illusion of his authority. Mr. Barnett is indisputably morally wrong; however he gains superiority through race only. Similarly when Lillian Jean bumps into Cassie it is blatant that Lillian Jean is to blame and Cassie is forced to apologize because of her skin colour. After Cassie reluctantly apologizes to Lillian Jean, Lillian Jean orders Cassie to step off the sidewalk.

Lillian Jean sidestepped in front of me. “That ain’t enough. Get down on the road.”

I looked up at her. “You crazy?”

“You can’t watch where you going, get in the road. Maybe that way you won’t be bumping into decent white folks with your nasty little self.”

After Cassie refuses, Lillian Jean decides to take physical action which isn’t acceptable, particularly when Cassie is assaulted by a grown man, Mr. Simms. Cassie is devastated by Big Ma not objecting or protesting however Cassie is unaware that Big Ma is under dangerous pressure and has no other choice. Cassie is heartbroken that she has been made to call a peer Miz no-one has come to defend her. She has been coerced to into apologising for something she knows is wrong. This experience reflects the difficulty many other Afro-Americans had come to face; being goaded into committing an act which is unethical and immoral.

The “Miz” causes Cassie the most indignation as it is humiliating to her; it implies that Lillian Jean has authority and dominance however realistically Lillian Jean possesses no superiority over Cassie; this false idea is only supported by the physical assault of her father. Cassie becomes aware of the concept that those like Mr. Simms, condescending, arrogant white people, will never treat Cassie as equal but only less.

T.J is portrayed initially as a mischievous and obnoxious boy, always causing trouble. As the story unravels it becomes more evident why T.J is so infuriating. T.J is really a victim of circumstance. If his upbringing had been more caring and supportive he would have been a different person. T.J’s parents are unsupportive and uncaring; they have been broken by the racist society they live in and so T.J is affected also in a vicious circle. T.J doesn’t spend much time with his family but at the Wallaces’ store. Cassie’s family is strong and supportive providing much care for her and her brothers. However T.J does not have the same luxury. He tries anxiously to fit in and is friendly with Cassie and Stacey because he envies how lucky they are. T.J is fundamentally insecure. He has very little self confidence and self esteem because deep he has been made to feel inferior and substandard, but in spite of this he chooses not to accept the fact that he is second class.

T.J constantly stays at the Wallace’s’ store. The Wallace’s had burnt down the Berrys’/ house and killed the Berrys. The Wallaces are prejudiced and uneducated rednecks.

T.J befriends the Simms brothers R.W and Melvin. Shortly after befriending him they both goad T.J into stealing a gun. Whilst R.W and Melvin steal the money T.J steals the gun. When all three are disturbed Jim Lee Barnett is killed and T.J threatens to report R.W and Melvin only to receive a threat. T.J is later reported by R.W and Melvin and is beaten severely. His house is wrecked and he is eventually arrested. T.J was nothing more than a scapegoat; he was set up by R.W and Melvin and helped them steal by offering his soul. The reader sympathizes with T.J. because he was only trying to reach out for love. Mildred Taylor succeeds in make the readers aware of prejudice and condemns prejudice through T.J’s tragedy. Cassie concludes the story by saying that what happened was wrong and immoral.

What had happened to T.J in the night I did not understand, but I knew that it would not pass. And I cried for all the things which had happened in the night and would not pass. I cried for T.J. For T.J. and the land.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is also set in the era of the 1930’s, shortly after the Great Depression. The book is seen through the eyes of a young girl, Scout. The narrator brings innocence to every scenario as Scout is blissfully ignorant. She is too young to fully comprehend how serious some of the events are. Scout looks up to her father Atticus, whom is a moral and ethical lawyer. Scout also has a brother, Jem who is thirteen and is looked up to by Scout. The book commences illustrating Scout’s roots and her home, the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. When the story commences Dill, a friend of Jem and Scout, takes a curious interest in the Radley house. The folk of Maycomb spread tales and rumours about Boo Radley. The interest in him began out of ignorance, eventually developing into untruthful gossip. The Radley house is illustrated as once white with a deep front porch and green shutters, but had long ago darkened to the colour of the slate-grey garden around it.

The Radleys are also different to the rest of the community, as they live in deliberate isolation and aren’t as social as others. Boo Radley is unfairly blamed for all peculiar incidents;

Once the town was terrorize by a series of morbid nocturnal events: people’s chickens and household pets were found mutilated; although the culprit was Crazy Addie, who eventually drowned himself in Barker’s Eddy, people still looked at the Radley Place.

The reason behind the Radleys’ seclusion from society is that when Boo Radley was young he had joined a gang. No one in Maycomb had the decency to inform Mr. Radley that his son was associating with rebellious people and one night Boo had resisted arrest, and finally was locked up. Boo’s father saw to it that Boo would never again disturb Maycomb, and Boo Radley was not seen again for 15 years. As a result Scout describes the Radleys’ propensity to:

…keep to themselves… a predilection unforgivable in Maycomb.

The town of Maycomb is described in the first few chapters as a peaceful, innocent town however as the story progresses the people of the society become quite different. For instance the Cunningham family are introduced into the book initially as uneducated people, Whose only purpose is farming. They struggle in school, because they are forced to farm to earn a living and survive. The Cunninghams are unable to stay in education, creating a recurring cycle of families remain uneducated. Even though the Cunningham’s are poor, they are still looked up to in contrast with any black man, as is Bob Ewell, who is a drunk who hunts for food and doesn’t work. Appearances are not as they seem in this book. Many people in Maycomb are corrupted by prejudice and racism. In contrast Scout who has been educated and taught to read by Atticus is has empathy with all races. She understands because she has not been raised by a racist role-model. Atticus has raised Jem and Scout to be fair to everyone no matter whom they are.

The main condemnation of prejudice in the novel is Tom Robinson’s rape trial. Atticus is aware that Jem and Scout are inevitably going to go through a difficult time. Atticus already knows that Tom Robinson’s case is hopeless, as the jury will not believe the word of a black man against the word of a white man, no matter how strong the evidence is. The trial subsequently has an underlying motive besides setting a man free. Atticus is fully conscious that Tom Robinson stands very little chance winning, but despite how predictable the outcome of the case will turn out to be, Atticus wants to achieve more than free Tom Robinson.

He hopes to persuade the jury to consider Tom Robinson’s point of view. The bigotry that has prevailed in the Southern states may not be completely eliminated, or Atticus may not be persuasive enough to convince the jury Tom Robinson is innocent, but Atticus will argue the case with all his skill. Atticus is one of very few who is capable of convincing the jury that Tom Robinson is innocent. Atticus explains to Scout that if he doesn’t defend Tom Robinson he cannot respect himself. As the story develops, Atticus succeeds in making the jury consider the case. The jury spend a few hours discussing whereas usually such a verdict would have reached in a few moments. Although Tom Robinson is found guilty, Atticus had done something which was truly difficult. He challenged the arrogant views of part of the jury, however not the whole of the jury. Despite Tom Robinson being found guilty, an appeal would have still been available.

This hope is eradicated when Tom Robinson was shot 17 times after attempting to climb the prison wall. It is very excessive to shoot him 17 times, and blatantly the guards shot to kill rather than prevent him from escaping.

During the trial Bob Ewell was humiliated. Bob Ewell chose to deal with this humiliation by pursuing Jem and Scout, who are saved by Boo Radley. Boo Radley is repaid by not being arrested, however considering that Boo Radley was able to save Scout and Jem in time clearly means he must have acted as a guardian angel. He had saved the children because they were in trouble. Harper Lee uses both these incidents to condemn prejudice, showing that Tom Robinson and Boo Radley were both misjudged

To Kill a Mockingbird and Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry are similar in that they both leave the reader aware of the bigotry members if the public have, and despite the difference in race between Cassie and Scout, they both experience racism, and realise of how unjust the world is. Cassie experiences racism at first hand and Scout experiences racism second hand however they are both raised to deal with it, to be equally fair. Both stories depict how bad racism was in the 1930’s and encourage the reader to condemn prejudice.

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