As we know, racism is a strong theme in the novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, and in chapter 5, the theme of racism is shown in a huge way. The way Mildred Taylor uses this racism not only portrays the harshness and cruelty of racism, but it is also quite scary and shocking. The use of Cassie and the she says things, allows us to see how a child is thinking, and it gives us a whole different perspective on things. We are first introduced to racism on page 116.
We notice that Big Ma has set up, a long way away from the front gates. Cassie begins to ask questions, but as a knowledgeable reader, we understand that it is to do with racism, but when we read, we’re hearing from Cassie’s point of view, this makes it a lot more powerful. Cassie is very naive, and as a result in this, she is asking lots of questions, ‘well, what the devil we doing way back here then! Can’t nobody see us. As we are reading we just want her to know about all the segregation and white supremacy, but the fact that she doesn’t understand, isn’t only frustrating, but saddening, because we just know that something is going to happen, because Mildred builds up huge amounts of tension by Cassie asking lots of questions. ‘Them white folks’ wagons Cassie. ’ This short sharp line tells us what we want to hear. We know that they are, but when Big Ma says this, t means that Cassie now knows what the reason of it is. The structure of this bit of speech from Big Ma is short and sharp.
It delivers a huge message in a quick, but effective way. Its effective because she tells it how it is, and helps us as the reader understand Cassie’s response. ‘Shoot’, just a one word response. Cassie had been going on about why they were so far back and was getting upset about it, and when she finds out why, it frustrates her even more, because she doesn’t understand why, but she just wants to change it. We don’t see any racism until page 120. Cassie, Stacey and T. J are in the shop and are being waited on by Mr Barnett.
Then a white lady, Miss Emmaline, comes along and jumps the queue, in front of Cassie. Mr Barnett immediately stops serving Cassie, Stacey and T. J and waits upon Miss Emmaline. ‘What’s he doing’ Cassie objected, thinking that its wrong for him to just stop serving them when they were rightfully there. Stacy and T. J both understand the whole situation, but Mildred Taylor makes it very clear that Cassie doesn’t, shows us how naive she is. Again, Mildred uses a short sentence to help us get a better image of what’s happening.
Cassie snaps, in amazement, because of Mr Barnett’s rude and impolite behaviour. We can understand her amazement, because Mildred Taylor has given such good descriptive imagery of Cassie’s home life, and how she must have good manners. This is why it came as a shock to Cassie, because we have to remember that she still doesn’t yet fully understand racism. Notices as well, all the words, Mildred Taylor uses to describe Cassie’s increasing anger, ‘I objected’, ‘I cried’. These all portray Cassie’s anger and shock of the events happening around her.
The next, and final part of this chapter is the most powerful and shocking scene of racism so far. Cassie backs into a girl she knows from Jeremy, his sister, and then it all kicks off. Lillian Jean attempts to make Cassie obey her. As we have seen before, Cassie’s strong will, and naivety will not allow her to do such a task for some of the same age, let alone anyone else. When she moves her arm out of the way of Lillian Jean, showing Lillian that Cassie won’t cooperate with her, Lillian’s father grabs her arm. ‘You hear me talkin’ to you gal?
You ‘pologize to Miz Lillian Jean this minute. ’ A grown man is bossing an 8 year old child around, and is addressing her as, ‘Gal’. This shows her in superiority and how white folks think they are better. The reason why this particular event is so important, is because Cassie experiences racism first hand, and goes through the fright of being racially bullied by a grown man, with the support of several other white folks. Also, the fact that Cassie is so adamant about not replying, shows us as the reader, that this will cause consequences later on the book.
As we can see this, it builds up suspense and then this makes us want to read on, and find out what the consequences of Cassie’s actions are. Mildred Taylor uses speech to build tension and the end of this paragraph, with short sentences and long pauses. The ending to this paragraph is really quite horrible and sad. We, as readers, have all been young and would always look for support from out parents and loved ones, but in a situation, Big Ma’s hand are tied, but Cassie doesn’t understand why she isn’t standing up for her. Cassie feels all alone and doesn’t know why. She is lost.