The weather is closely correlated to the happenings of Roll of Thunder, and the sound of thunder lends a sense of foreboding at various points, including when Papa is late back from town and later emerges with a broken leg and bullet wound. Rain storms down the day the Logan children are forced into the ditch and exact their revenge on the school bus, and at the conclusion of the novel as the community fights the flames that threaten their cotton and their homes.
Nature is often personified in the novel, the red dust tormenting the children and the rain and dust battling in the opening of chapter three until “the dust was forced to surrender to the mastery of the rain and in churned into a fine red mud” (31). But the images from nature extend beyond those of sun, rain and moon, which also at various points imparts a sense of peace. Big Ma’s skin is the “color of a pecan shell” (23) and Mr. Morrison moves like a “jungle cat (50), both characters being positively associated with the earth and natural world. Eyes
Open eyes are also described vividly, from Little Man looking “saucer-eyed” at the bus that splashes him in the first chapter to Stacey’s eyes being “anxious” as he tries to avoid telling Cassie outright that their father had intentionally set the fire. When Hammer is introduced, his eyes are said to often have a “cold, distant glaze” and his aloofness contrasts with his younger brother’s persistent gaze and focus on family.
Cassie shares details of people’s physical forms as a way to reveal aspects of their characters, but so do their clothes tell something about those inside. Little Man is incessantly preoccupied with keeping his threadbare hand-me-down clothing clean, while Cassie cannot stand her first-day-of-school dress and shoes which “imprisoned freedom-loving feet accustomed to the feel of the warm earth” (3). Clothing becomes especially important when Stacey gives his new ill-fitting wool coat to the larger T.J. and is harshly reprimanded.
Car and Bridge
Other symbols include the car Hammer Logan buys to mimic Harlan Granger, which he must sell to keep the land. The rickety bridge he drives across also represents the weak structures holding together the South, old and broken and near breaking point. The Land But perhaps most important of all is the symbolism of the land, which to the Logans is a metaphor for economic independence as well as holding together the generations of family dependent on it. The rain that pours down to protect it from the raging fire, symbolic of the racial hatred destroying blacks and whites alike, has been a long time coming. Rolls of distant thunder have been suggesting its eventual appearance for many chapters by the time it floods the earth from the sky and washes both the land and all its inhabitants clean with the hope to start again. The metaphor of dirt that Little Man and others have been scrubbing since the beginning is evocative of the foul treatment of human beings trampled by the racial order, and Taylor seems to suggest a superhuman element in the forces of nature finally delivering a sense of cleanliness and peace from the heavens.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: Metaphor Analysis