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and Gilbert Dawson in The Sexton's Hero showing how they reflect the
theme of heroism.
Mary Logan in "Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry" and Gilbert Dawson in The
Sexton's Hero both have many similarities, all of which reflect the
theme of heroism. Both have to fight against the expectations of the
society they live in. Mary Logan lives in the USA in the 1930's. She
is a young black woman living in a white mans world, she is a teacher
and her family own land, which the white landowners are not very happy
about. The white people believe that blacks a less worthy then whites
and should know their place. Gilbert Dawson is a man living in
Lancashire in the 1850's, he is meant to be strong and ready to fight,
however he doesn't want to fight and this angers the rest of the
Both Mildred D. Taylor and Elizabeth Gaskell wrote their books to
change peoples views on different things. Mildred D. Taylor wanted to
change peoples views on black people, and Elizabeth Gaskell wanted to
change peoples views on haw people should act. Both writers see people
In the dictionary a hero is: "A person who is admired for being brave"
Mrs Gaskell's definition is
"One who acts up to the highest idea of duty he has been able to
perform, no matter at what sacrifice."
In fairy tales, the hero is usually a man who rescues the princess
from evil. Over time the term hero has changed from the old fashioned
traditional hero to modern hero's (someone who is heroic for standing
by principles and suffering hardship as a result.)
In The Sexton's Hero, Gilbert Dawson is more of a traditional hero
because he saves Letty and the Sexton's life, but dies himself. He
also has some of the qualities of a modern hero as he stands up for
what he believes in. However Mary Logan in "Roll Of Thunder Hear My
Cry" is a modern hero, as she stands by here principles, no matter
what the cost to her is.
In "The Sexton's Hero," Gilbert Dawson is expected to support and
reflect the male working class stereotype. He is expected to be
"manly", physically strong and aggressive, ready to fight when
necessary and to stand up to a challenge.
However Gilbert Dawson goes against these expectations. He refuses to
fight much to the amazement of the onlookers
"it seemed such a thing for a stout young chap to be a coward and
But Gilbert Dawson was not a coward or afraid.
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"Consider the characters of Mary Logan in Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry." 123HelpMe.com. 17 Jun 2019
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Quaker is a member of the religious group, the Society of Friends, who
believed that it was wrong to fight.
"I cannot fight because I think it is wrong to quarrel and use
Therefore it would have been very hard for Gilbert not to fight, when
everyone around him was taunting him, but:
"he stood it out, his teeth set, and looking very white."
Mary Logan in "Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry" also has expectations to
live up to. As a black woman, living in southern USA in the 1930's,
she is expected to be subservient to the white people and accept the
racist hierarchy. She is also expected to accept a white view on
history and the inequality in education, property and legal rights.
However, although Mary Logan may outwouldly bow down to the whites,
she doesn't accept white superiority. She tries to persuade the black
community to shop elsewhere:
"she spoke of finding another store to patronise."
She does this because the Wallaces, who run the local store, are
suspected of burning a black family. Mary Logan teaches her students
about slavery even though she is not allowed to.
" To make matters worse her lesson for the day was slavery"
She wants her students to know the truth about their history. She even
covers an offensive page in a black textbook.
"Then she took the paper and placed it over the glue." She fights
against white expectations because she believes that one day there
will be freedom, and she wants her children to live in a fairer
society. Mary Logan speaks out for the share-croppers who don't have a
voice. She is fighting for justice.
Both writers show the difficulties that the characters face because
they go against the expectations of the community.
In "The Sextons Hero" Gilbert Dawson is treated very badly by the
community, after he refuses to fight. People thought there was
something wrong with him. The called him a "monkey or a foreigner,"
and drove him out of the community. Letty, who is supposed to be in
love with Gilbert, tries to blackmail him into fighting the sexton.
When he would not fight, Letty was spiteful and eventually left
Gilbert for the Sexton.
In "Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry", Mary Logan tries to move the black
community shopping to Vicksburg. When Mr Granger, the white landowner,
finds out he tries to stop her, but when she won't:
"Mr Granger stood to go, a smile creeping smugly over his lips as if
he knew a secret but refused to tell."
Shortly after Mary Logan was sacked by the white school board, and Mr
Granger, after she was caught teaching black history.
Even though both characters are treated badly by others they still
teat other people with respect. Gilbert Dawson never speaks badly to
anyone in the community, the small children loved him, they don't know
about the prejudice. He saved the life of Letty and the sexton even
though they had been mean to him.
Mary Logan also treats others around her with respect. She shows
hospitality towards Mr Morrison and when Jeremy comes at Christmas,
she is kind to him. Mary Logan is loving and caring, she always thinks
However neither Character finds their decision easy and both suffer as
a consequence. Gilbert Dawson changes a lot. He becomes quieter and
his way of walking changed.
"His step used to be brisk and sounding, but now his foot lingered
heavily on the ground."
The whole community knew of Gilbert's suffering.
"The lads would not play with him; and as soon as he found he was to
be ignored by them when ever he came quoiting or cricket, he just left
For Mary Logan, her suffering was not as bad as she has her family
around her, but this means that she fears for her family's safety,
especially from the Wallaces. She is scared that they will lose their
land. The land is very important to the Logans as it is a symbol of
their freedom from the whites. Mary Logan is very hurt when she loses
her job, as it was a good source of income for the family.
"What we do David? We needed that job."
In both stories the characters are supported by their Christian Faith.
For Gilbert Dawson, his Religion gives him comfort and Solace, plus
the strength to bear his hardship in a Godless and unchristian
community. His Bible symbolises his integrity, he lives by it.
"There were many a text in the Gospel, marked broad with his
carpenter's pencil which more that bore him out in his refusal to
He believes so much in what it says, that he is willing to sacrifice
the girl he loves, to abide by it.
In "Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry", religion also plays an important
role in peoples lives, though not as much as in 'The Sextons Hero'.
For the black community, the Christian church is seen as the corner
stone of their lives. It is referred to as part of everyday life.
Great Faith church is where the Logans and the rest of the black
community worship and assemble. The annual revival : "ran for seven
days and was a occasion everyone looked forward to."
It shows the community spirit as everyone got together. Mary Logan's
values of equality and justice spring from her simple Christian
Both Mary Logan and Gilbert Dawson are committed to their duty and
both have to make sacrifices to fulfil that duty.
Gilbert Dawson makes a bigger sacrifice than Mary Logan as he
sacrifices his life to save that of Letty and the Sexton. Gilbert is a
traditional hero as he saves the day.
However Mary Logan is more of a modern hero because she stands by her
Ultimately, both Gilbert Dawson and Mary Logan reflect the theme of
heroism as they both stand up for what they believe in.