1. Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
I haven't read Roll of Thunder
since I was a kid, and honestly, didn't remember much of what goes on in it. Reading it now, I can't help but contrast it with To Kill a Mockingbird
-- the two novels are very similar in themes, plot, and setting. Both take place in rural, Depression-era South; both plots center around the racial injustices of the place and time; both are narrated by young girls who are only just becoming aware of the racial politics that around them; both narrators are relatively sheltered and prosperous, as compared to their peers; both narrators idolize their fathers and alternately look up to and chafe under the influence of their older brothers.
I've read Mockingbird
umpteen times in my life, and for the first half or so of Taylor's book, Roll of Thunder
felt to me like I had rotated the Mockingbird
world in my hands and was looking in at it through another window, seeing many bits of the story that had been hidden from Scout. And then the world twisted on me. In this
story, Atticus isn't a hero.
Mr. Jamison, the fair-minded white lawyer who is respectful to the black families and willing to incur personal risk while advocating in their interest, is... well, pathetically ineffectual. He is portrayed as a good man and an ally, but he isn't trusted, either. He is very alien, very removed from their lives, and no one can forget that he acts solely from his own sense of morality and may buckle under social pressure at any time. And, as I said, despite all his efforts, he can't do
all that much to help anyone. During the book's climax, ( OMG SPOILERS! )
This is a very, very different portrait than the self-composed Atticus reading below Tom Robinson's cell window while they wait for the lynch mob.
And, yanno, notwithstanding all these lines I just spent on Mr. Jamison? He's a minor character
. He's hardly mentioned in the book at all. I just finished reading the novel this morning, yet I had to go look up Mr. Jamison's name so that I could write this post. However grand and heroic Atticus is in Mockingbird
, his alter-ego barely exists in the Logans' world.
The ending of Roll of Thunder
is... abrupt. More of a highly-emphasized break between acts than a true end of a novel. But I hear that Taylor wrote bunch more about the Logans...