T.J. Avery Portrayed as a Victim of the Times

T.J. Avery Portrayed as a Victim of the Times

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To what extent does Mildred Taylor portray TJ as a victim of the

In this novel TJ Avery is portrayed as a victim of the times. He
becomes caught up in the prejudice against Blacks, and believes it is
a way of life

At the beginning of the novel the reader does not really know a lot
about TJ, and it is not until later that they really get to know him.
Although TJ is the oldest of the children in the novel he is a very
insecure character and has low self esteem. He longs to be liked and
to have the security of a family, like the Logan's. When he is
attacked by R.W. and Melvin it is the Logans that he turns to. Before
going home to his parents he goes to Stacey and asks for help. He does
this because he realises that they are the only true friends he has,
and that as they are brought up better than he is, they learn to
forgive and forget and treat him like part of their family. He says to
Stacey 'You my only true friend…ain't never really had no true friend
but you,' emphasising to the reader that he realises they way has
treated Stacey was wrong, and now knows that Stacey stands by him
through everything and is his best friend, and knows that he will

Papa thinks that TJ is a fool. This is made clear when the Averys are
going to be attacked by the Wallaces. He says 'This thins been coming
for a long time, baby and TJ just happened to be the one foolish
enough to trigger it. But fool or not I can't just sit by and let them
kill the boy.' This also shows that after everything the Logans do
actually care for TJ and could not bear for him to be hurt.

TJ is also very gullible and in need for attention. He truly believes
that the White boys want to be his friends, but have no idea that they
are actually using him. When he is with them he feels wanted and
important, but does not notice that they are only befriending him for
their interests and not his. At the Revival TJ says, 'Got me better
friends than y'all! They give me things and treat me like I'm a
man…and they white too ' The fact that TJ adds 'and they white too'
shows how important this is to him. It is as if them being white is an
added extra bonus, and that now he is with them, no one can treat him

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From the very first time that the reader meets TJ, it becomes clear
that although he is black, unlike many others he accepts the
situation, and believes it is how they are supposed to live. For
example, when the bus from Jefferson Davis school drives past Little
Man is worried about getting his best clothes dirty and refuses to
jump up on the bank, in doing so he is covered in red dust from the
track when it passes by. TJ's response to this is 'Well, ole Little
Man done got his Sunday clothes dirty,' showing that TJ thinks that
what has happened to Little Man is his own fault. He believes this
because he thinks that Little Man should have jumped onto the bank to
move out of the way of the Whites like everyone else does and like
they are expected to. This is one of the ways that Mildred Taylor
portrays TJ as a victim of the times.

TJ is portrayed as a victim when he robs the Mercantile with R.W. and
Melvin he knows it is wrong and is afraid to do it, but feels that as
he is with White people everything will be alright as they have a
different way of living to the Blacks. Although the reader knows that
TJ really does want the pearl handed pistol, when it actually comes to
getting it he is frightened, but only goes ahead with it as he is with
his White 'friends,' and wants the power it can give him. After he has
robbed the store he feels very guilty and wants to go home but R.W and
Melvin refuse, and TJ tries to stand up for himself but they beat him,
and as they are White it would be believed that they are allowed to.
TJ likes to be centre of attention, and this is another reason for why
he becomes friendly with the White boys. When the Berry's are tarred
and feathered the Logans do not know, but TJ tells them. To make sure
that they are all focussing on him he says 'maybe I ought not tell
y'all. It might hurt y'all's little ears,' prolonging the suspense.
Due to this reason, when TJ turns up at the Logans asking for help
Cassie thinks he is just trying to get attention and not really
injured at all. She says 'You sure you ain't lying, TJ?'

Even from the beginning of the novel it is made clear that Cassie is
not particularly fond of TJ. She thinks that he is obnoxious and
cruel. She says 'I didn't like TJ very much,' and 'Yeah, shut up, TJ,'
which shows Cassie's tomboy side, but is also quite a powerful and
strong outburst, but at the same time expresses her true feelings. She
also thinks that what TJ does to his brother, Claude, is wrong and
that TJ is a bully. When TJ tells his parents that he only went up to
the Wallace Store to get Claude, to avoid getting beaten, Cassie is
disgusted to think that he could do such a thing to his family. She
does not realise that TJ only acts like this because it how he
believes he should act, and because of the way in which he was brought
up. He only thinks it is how he should act because it is the same way
he has seen the Whites treat the Blacks, and because the discipline he
receives from his parents is not strong, he does not think it matters
that he lies and gets his brother into trouble so as he can save

As the narrator is ten year old Cassie, most of the book is told
through her eyes of a child. She does not consider why TJ is like he
is, instead just thinks that he is a bad person and totally
responsible for his actions. However, the reader can see beyond this,
and knows that the way TJ is like he is, is because of the place he is
brought up in, and the racial tension and prejudice surrounding that
area at the time. The reader can also see that TJ is a victim caught
up in the goings on of that time. This is made clear when TJ robs the
Wallace store. Even though he says 'Jus' look at it. Ain't she
somethin'?' referring to the gun in Mr Barnett's store, indicating
that he really would like it, he actually feels alone, frightened and
upset, all of which are obvious to the reader. It becomes clear to TJ
that the White boys are just using him to get what they want,
something that Stacey and Cassie could both see early on.
When Cassie realises, at the end of the novel, that TJ is not really a
bad person, and that what happens to him is not really his fault, she
pities him and like the reader, feels sorry for him. The closing
thought in the book is the realisation and comes from Cassie, 'I cried
for TJ. For TJ and the land.' As she knows that she will never see TJ
again, she upset, and distraught because of the way she treated him
before. At the beginning of the novel Cassie is very unforgiving and
dislikes TJ a lot, but by the end she comes to realise that he is
merely caught up as a victim of the times and what happens to him
really is not his fault.

As Stacey is twelve, he is older than Cassie and understands TJ's
situation more. He provides a more balanced view. Although he rejects
TJ at the revival because he is friends with the White boys and
because he cost Mama her job, he still helps TJ in his time of need
because he feels it is not entirely his fault. Everyone looks up to
Stacey as he is a very trustworthy and respectful character, and
because of this he does not turn TJ away, as TJ says his father would
do. Although Stacey steals and destroys TJ cheat notes he does it for
his own good. He also does not include TJ when they dig the trench to
break the bus; he includes Claude but not TJ. He does this because TJ
would not think it would be right to go against the Whites. He
believes that the Blacks should be inferior to the Whites, unlike many
others, and for that reason would try and stop Stacey, Cassie and
everyone from digging the trench. He would also want the attention to
be on him and he would not like it if it was focussed more on Stacey
and Cassie. Unlike Cassie and Little Man, Stacey is not naïve. He
knows the things that will happen and why, but he cannot stop them. He
thinks that Blacks and Whites should be given the same opportunities.
For example that they should both go to the same schools, and both
have buses. He also believes that the land belongs as much to the
Blacks as it does to the Whites, and therefore the Blacks should not
have to sharecrop. Stacey is not like TJ in that he feels these things
should happen.

When Uncle Hammer gives Stacey a new coat TJ hurls insults at him and
makes him believe that the coat is awful. For example he says that the
coat make Stacey look like a 'fat preacher,' and that it does not fit
him properly. The reason behind this is not that TJ does not like the
coat; it is because he is jealous of it and of the strong family bond
the Logans have and wishes to be part of it. It is the same situation
at Christmas when Jeremy gives Stacey a flute.

TJ also reveals that he wants the pearl handed pistol for
'protection.' He says 'There's other things a boy needs protectin'
from more than a rattlesnake. I get me that gun and ain't nobody gonna
mess with me.' This shows that TJ wants the status and power the
Whites have but knows that he will never actually get it because that
is not how it is supposed to be. This particular piece of the novel
reflects on the language used by TJ. It is written in strong accent,
which emphasises the fact that he is Black and his so called friends
are White, because they speak differently. Again, this is another way
in which TJ is portrayed as a victim of the times

Throughout the novel it is clear that TJ is a victim of the times. The
strongest way in which it comes across is his acceptance of the racist
attitude towards him. For a twelve year old boy, today, this is hard
to deal with, but at the time of the Depression in 1936 it is the way
of life, or so TJ believes. He is quite easily caught up and used by
the Whites. TJ believes that RW and Melvin are his friends, and also
likes the power it gives him to be in with White boys, but after they
beat him badly it is to his true friends that he turns to. Although he
has been bad to them; getting Mama fired, taking Stacey's coat,
bringing RW and Melvin to the Revival, and mocking Little Man, the
Logans still help TJ at his time of need. This is the type of family
that TJ is jealous of and wishes that he could belong to. He would
like the love and acceptance that the Logan children have, and to be
brought up to respect others and be honest in the same way. Frequently
throughout the novel Mildred Taylor does portray TJ as a victim of the
times to a large extent.
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