Contrast and compare the ways in which the characters of David and Hammer Logan deal with the issue of prejudice in ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry’; Mildred D. Taylor’s ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry’; is set during the Great Depression, in the rural areas of Mississippi. The majority of the people in this community are sharecroppers, who are greatly dependent on plantation farming. The Logan family is fortunate because they have a piece of land of their own, so unlike other black sharecroppers they do not have to be dependent on the whites.
However, due to the sharp decrease in the price of the cotton crop the family have to work hard to keep it in their hands, whilst also providing food in order for them to survive. The situation is further worsened because of the severity of racism and segregation in the society. The Logans are one of the few families who own land and this causes resentment from the whites whose beliefs are that black people are inferior and the whites must maintain their supremacy. David Logan and Uncle Hammer both believe that prejudice must be stopped, yet the ways in which they fight against it differ greatly.
Papa prefers to act non-violently and to work within the system. He does so by concentrating on paying off the mortgage of the land so that his family will be on an equal par with the whites and have self-respect. He modifies his behaviour and considers things carefully in order not to jeopardise the land and the safety of his family. Hammer on the other hand has left Mississippi to get away from the prejudice, but once confronted with it again; he reacts violently and impulsively. Being a single person he puts his sense of injustice before concern about repercussions against the family.
Papa works on the railroads in order to support his family and the land, so as a result he only returns to Mississippi during the wintertime. Unlike Papa, Uncle Hammer does not live with the family. He is not married and lives in Chicago where segregation is less severe, and thus has the opportunity to earn a good salary. When he visits the Logan family during the Christmas season ‘Uncle Hammer wore, as he had everyday since he had arrived, sharply creased pants, a vest over a snow-white shirt and shoes that shone like midnight. ‘; This shows that he is not afraid to flaunt his wealth, which in turn provokes the whites.
His aim is to show them that black people can be as equally successful. Also the black community admire him for his achievements, ‘Uncle Hammer stepped out of his car and someone cried, ‘Well, I’ll be doggone! It’s our Hammer! Hammer Logan! ‘; And in a body, the crowd engulfed us. ‘; His obvious professional success and his wealth also gives them hope, and a goal to work towards despite the hard times and their general lack of opportunity. The ways Uncle Hammer and Papa deal with situations are very different because of the amount of self-control that they have.
Whenever a white person does something that degrades the black people, Uncle Hammer spontaneously seeks revenge without thinking about the consequences of his actions. For example, when he hears that Cassie had been pushed into the road by Mr Simms while visiting Strawberry, he immediately reaches for his gun and heads for the door to the Simmses’. ‘Then he stood slowly, his eyes icing into the distant way they could, and he started toward the door, limping slightly on his left leg. ‘
‘Don’t worry. I ain’t gonna use David’s gun . . . I’ve got my own. Hammer is impetuous with a quick temper that means he often acts without thinking things through. Papa does not like Uncle Hammer’s hot temper. He tells Cassie, ‘you got yourself a bad temper like your Uncle Hammer. That temper can get you into trouble. ‘; Uncle Hammer’s way of handling situations, using violence against violence, and his inability to control his temper, would not only affect himself, but could also involve the rest of his family. If Mr. Morrison had not stopped him from going to the Simms’, the end result probably would have been very severe. Papa takes a different approach towards the incident.
Now I don’t like the idea of what Charlie Simms did to you no more than your Uncle Hammer, but I had to weigh the hurt of what could have happened to you to what could have happened if I went after him. If I’d gone after Charlie Simms and given him a good thrashing like I felt like doing, the hurt on all of us would’ve been a whole lot worse than the hurt you received, so I let it be. ‘; His character is more reflective and he thinks things through before taking action, but this does not mean he accepts racial prejudice. He bides his time and chooses his words carefully.
Also, Uncle Hammer is not afraid to talk back to the whites. This can be seen most clearly when the landowner, Mr Granger comes to visit to threaten the Logan family that he will do anything in order to get them to give up their land. He tries to refute any harsh remark he makes about him or any black person in general. ‘You right citified, ain’t you? Course you always did think you was too good to work in the fields like other folks. ‘; ‘Naw, that ain’t it’; said Uncle Hammer, I just ain’t never figured fifty cents a day was worth a child’s time, let alone a man’s wages. ‘
Often Mr. Granger is lost for words and becomes tense and aggravated. Papa however remains quiet throughout the entire conversation until the very end where he seems even-tempered and decisive with his words. Whenever he talks his voice is ‘very distinct, very sure. ‘; He also ‘impaled Mr. Granger with an icy stare. ‘; Papa’s method of carefully thinking how to resolve the situation in the most non-disruptive manner, is just as effective on Mr. Granger as Uncle Hammer’s. Yet Papa is no saint, Mildred Taylor’s characters are balanced and well-rounded people with dark sides to their nature, which makes them appear more genuine and real.
Papa has his negative aspects and has his moments where he can lose his temper. ‘Then suddenly there was a sharp explosion as if something had been struck with an angry force. ‘If only this leg wasn’t busted! ‘; A lot of times he feels like doing things Hammer’s way, yet he is capable of keeping his anger inside. Yet despite their differences, both are greatly attached to the land, which ultimately brings the whole family together and maintains their unity. Papa tries to make his children realise the importance of keeping the land within the family and that they are ‘born blessed’;.
You ain’t never had to live on nobody’s land but your own and as long as I live and the family survives, you’ll never have to. That’s important. You may not understand now, but one day you will. Then you’ll see. ‘; He is determined not to lose the land, as it is a powerful symbol of their freedom from slavery. It also gives them independence and self-respect. Although Uncle Hammer does not live on the land, he respects his heritage and gives up his Silver Packard in order to save it because Hammer recognises that his strength comes from his family and his heritage which are tied up with the land.
Consequently they both make sacrifices to keep the land but in different ways. The two characters were brought up in a family with a warm sense of caring and nurturing. Papa and his family try to create the same kind of environment inside their home so that the children can feel safe and derive pleasure from it. It is a place where they can have sanctuary from the dangers of the outside world. Papa also constantly reassures the family; creating a positive attitude, ‘We’ll get by…’; He has his appreciation for what little they do have and makes the children aware of it by his comments.
Well, look-a-here! ‘; he exclaimed. ‘Good old Butterbeans and cornbread! These wonderful womenfolks done gone and fixed us a feast. ‘; Hammer also guides the children towards a positive outlook but his methods can be harsh. When Stacey is fooled by T. J into giving him the coat, Uncle Hammer shouts at Stacey so furiously that he ‘shook visibly from the encounter. ‘; However, both Uncle Hammer and David Logan are united when they advise the children never to give up and to fight against racism. ‘We keep doing what we gotta, and we don’t give up, we can’t’; They also teach the children to demand respect.
This plays an important part in the stability and the survival of the family. Another thing they have in common is that they both value their roots through the act of story telling, passing on their cultural heritage from generation to generation which happens often throughout the novel. For example during Christmas time Papa tells the children, ‘and ole Hammer and me, we used to sneak up there whenever it’d get so hot you couldn’t hardly move and take a couple of them melons on down to the pond and let them get real chilled.
In conclusion Uncle Hammer behaves much more impulsively than Papa, who can control his temper very well. He does not act spontaneously and thinks things out carefully, unlike Hammer who often acts on the spur of the moment. Despite the differences in their self-control and lifestyles, they are loyal family men who have similar values and principles and want to pass on their culture and teach the children their history. In view of this Uncle Hammer and Papa have more in common than is different.