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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
The novel is structured in a linear plot with the story segments paced according to the calendar. It begins with the start of the school year and ends just before the start of another school period a year later. The primary conflict is internal for Cassie as she is growing up and beginning to be aware of adult issues which often make no sense. Events occur in chronological sequence with an occasional story telling segment as a strategy for explaining the background of certain adult characters. Another strategy used to provide Cassie with information that moves the plot forward involves the local gossip such as that which takes place at the church meetings and the news passed along among the children.
In addition to chronology, the novel is structured around a series of problems and solutions, each problem a result of the previous solution. The problems and their complicating elements become more insurmountable as time passes.
The growing sense of impending doom is introduced by T.J., the character who will also become its primary victim. Centering the climactic events in a character whom Cassie doesn’t really like very well, and having the Logan children pull away from him when he begins doing things that are explicitly hurtful creates an objective correlative that allows both the Logans and the reader to maintain a healthy distance from the worse actions in the novel and also leaves the Logan family intact for other stories involving these characters.
The novel ends without any real resolution. T.J. is going to die, and no one lives happily ever after. There is no sense of coming change between the Mississippi Blacks and Whites any time in Cassie’s foreseeable future.
Threaded throughout the novel is the Logan emphasis on their land and their determination to keep it even as Harlan Granger makes repeated efforts to take it away from them. Ownership gives the Logans a sense of permanency that the tenant farmers do not have. Yet, as important as the land and crops are, David Logan is capable of making at least part of it a temporary sacrifice in order to save one of his own people. His efforts do little more than prolong the inevitable, but at least he is able to cool the violence and hatred for a short time.
Cassie is a 9 year old child at the beginning of the story. At the end of it, she is only a year older by the calendar, but a life time older in knowledge and understanding.