Cry the Beloved Country
For thousands of years, people have believed devoutly in an omnipotent spirit who watched over them, cared for them, loved them, protected them. A homely priest sheltered from the world in the rural South African countryside comes face to face with the blatant reality that pervades the urban jungle when he journeys to Johannesburg in search of his son. Taken aback by the harsh truths of the ravaged and segregated city, he relies solely on his Christian faith to withstand the brutalities that the city hosts. In Alan Paton’s novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, in light of living as a black South African under Apartheid and grieving over how his son has gone astray, Stephen Kumalo’s Christian faith helps him to overcome his hardships by bringing him solace in his darkest hours.
When Stephen Kumalo discovers his son’s moral transgression and his apparent lack of conscience, he turns to Tixo (the Xosa word for “God”) for solace in his time of trouble. In the wake of learning of his son’s immorality, Kumalo sinks into the depths of despair; however, Msimangu’s preaching to the blind in Ezenzeleni restores Kumalo’s faith. The tone is one of hope; the Lord will “open the blind eyes” and “make darkness light before them” (Paton, 124). With the use of the contrasting words “darkness” and “light”, the passage conveys the idea that the Lord can drive away encroaching evil with truth. From the phrase “hold thine hand” and “not forsake them” we can see that in times of trouble the Lord will not abandon his people and instead will guide them through their hardships, which Kumalo sorely needs. The mood is inspiring, because even in “darkness” the Lord does not forsake people; he will “hold thine hand” and “lead them in paths”, showing us that the Lord will not leave anyone behind. Kumalo is “silent”, awed by the “voice of gold” from the man “whose heart was golden, reading from a book of golden words”. This emphasis on the word “gold” shows that Tixo is the sole source of pure truth and light for Kumalo in his “darkness”. There are many pauses, reflecting Kumalo’s introspection and musings. At one point during the preaching he ask many rhetorical questions with no clear answer, revealing his grasping for truth. At last he comes to the conclusion that life is full of mystery, and all that matters is that he is “not forsaken” by Tixo. The saints will “lift up the heart in the days of our distress” and for that he is “grateful”. Having reached this conclusion, he tells Msimangu that he is “recovered” from the crippling “darkness” and sees the “light” again.
Not only does Kumalo see that the Christian faith provides consolation, but he also learns from Msimangu that the only way that South Africa can overcome Apartheid is through the Christian value of brotherly love between white and black men. The tone of Msimangu’s revelation is grave, because he is aware that the Apartheid in South Africa results in an imbalance of power between white and black men, which leaves room for discontentment. This discrimination from the unfair division of power prompts black men to desire to “put right what is wrong” by taking “revenge” (Paton, 71) on the white men. The mood here is somewhat hopeful despite the somber atmosphere. Msimangu presents one solution to the “corruption” and “power” thirst of the countrymen: “love”. There is still “one hope for our country”; the Christian love between “white and black men”, when they desire “only the good of their country”, will prompt them to “come together to work” selflessly for their shared society. The resentment of the black men is discernable from the use of harsh negative words like “revenge” and “corruption”. However, Msimangu’s optimism is evident through words like “hope”, “love”, “good”, and “come together”, underscoring Christian values. The sentences are long, with pauses interspersed among them; this demonstrates thoughtfulness and depth, as well as the gravity of these notions. The weight of his words comes from the precarious plight of the South African society; Msimangu believes that only Christian “love” “between black and white men” is the only way that the segregation and racism will come to an end.
In the face of the unknown, Kumalo’s fears get the better of him as his own world fades away; however, in a world where fear runs rampant, Kumalo combats the encroaching trepidation with his unwavering Christian faith. The tone is one of apprehension bordering on sheer terror; as “the journey” into the “unknown” (Paton, 44) begins, Kumalo’s fears, which he had managed to hold at bay, infringe upon him and run amok. To fend off such dreadful thoughts, Kumalo seeks refuge in his “sacred book”. Even though he is consumed with fear because his “own world is slipping away”, he finds comfort in the Bible because “it was this world alone that [he] was certain”. The mood is set as suspenseful; for when “the journey had begun”, it was filled with possibilities of “the unknown”. The repetition of the simple word “fear” does much to capture Kumalo’s emotions. This emphasis on “fear” throws light upon how much influence Kumalo’s Christian faith has on him; despite his overwhelming worries, they are all assuaged when he is immersed in the only world “that was certain”. The words “fear”, “killed”, “sickness”, “dying”, and “destroyed” leave a negative impression on the reader; they convey an atmosphere of foreboding. The passage is composed of sentences both long and short; by variating the lengths of the sentences, the author effectively conveys Kumalo’s running trains of thought and the anxiety that accompanies each. By punctuating the long sentence with commas, the author takes Kumalo’s fears and lines them up together; this shows how Kumalo gets carried away with his worries, and one leads to another. This vicious cycle of fear is cut short when Kumalo decides to read his Bible and takes refuge in the “world” that was “certain” because in a world that is rapidly changing, only his faith remains solid and stable. Kumalo is so emboldened by his faith that he is willing to trade the world he has always known for the “unknown” world of the “great city”, so long as he can still find solace in Tixo.
Hence, the priest Stephen Kumalo is able to overcome his hardships through the solace he finds in his Christian faith. In the wake of discovering that his son became a murderer, Kumalo powers through the ordeal by maintaining faith in Tixo. From Msimangu, Kumalo learns that the Christian value of brotherly love can combat the injustices of Apartheid. When Kumalo leaves his comfort zone for a world of fears, he is able to fend off the apprehension by finding comfort in the Christian faith. Like countless before him, Kumalo has an unwavering belief in God; he knows that there will always be someone who will watch over him unfailingly.
Repetition Is Key: Style and Meaning in Cry, the Beloved Country
Repetition is key to the dramatic effect in chapter 12 of Cry, the Beloved Country. Three important things are repeated: the title of the novel, the laws, and separation. Repetition makes very clear the point that the author, Alan Paton, is conveying: the people of South Africa need help. The repetition of phrases, ideas, or themes in chapter 12 show how the people of South Africa need someone to take action, to create useful laws, and to unite the black and white inhabitants in peace.
In chapter 12, the repetition of the title, “Cry the Beloved Country”, is an obvious demonstration of the desperation of the citizens of South Africa. “Cry, the beloved country. These things are not yet at an end,” declares Stephen Kumalo on page 105, near the end of chapter 11. This is the first time the title of the book is mentioned in the text, but it is not the last. “Cry, the beloved country” is said often throughout all of chapter 12. Repetition is a powerful tool because it shows the strong desire to be heard. Many children, if they believe they have not been heard the first time, will repeat their question over and over again until someone grants their request. When these children grow up, they typically learn to be patient and only repeat their questions when absolutely necessary. The murder of an engineer, Mr. Arthur Jarvis, requires the natives of South Africa to revert back to their childlike state of repetition. Mr. Jarvis was president of the African Boys Club, a faithful layman to the church, and a fighter for justice. This shows the despair in the hearts of the natives. When they turn back to childlike tendencies, it shows their great need for help in the same way that children often need help. When Kumalo and the other Africans repeat that phrase “cry, the beloved country,” it is a demand for the natives to take action. Despite the arguing and disagreeing of the vignettes in chapter 12, repetition shows the common want of the people of South Africa.
Many of the vignettes in chapter 12 feature both white men of Johannesburg proposing ideas of how to prevent the violence that led to Mr. Jarvis’ death. Although Jarvis’ death is not explicitly mention in the vignettes, the conversations suggest that his death is what prompted them. One common thing mentioned is the laws. On page 108, we see a conversation between one man, “Jackson”, and another man who remains unnamed. The unnamed man says, “They should enforce the pass laws, Jackson,” to which Jackson replies, “But I tell you the pass laws don’t work.” The recurring topic of laws and their inadequacy is noticeable. Without sufficient laws, the people are left to repeat a cry calling for action. Earlier in the chapter, a man is giving a speech and asks his audience, “Which do we prefer, a law-abiding, industrious and purposeful native people, or a lawless, idle, and purposeless people?” This line shows that Jackson is not the only South African that believes there is no real law governing the blacks. Again, repetition is key in this chapter, showing just how many people, despite their disagreements on how to achieve it, all deep-down want the same thing. In this case, it is a law that will keep both blacks and whites safe and purposeful.
The ignorance of some characters portrayed in chapter 12 shows the importance of peace between blacks and whites without need for segregation. When a vignette in chapter 12 describes a conversation of a rich, white man or woman they often consider segregation as a way for peace. One white, after taking her children to Zoo Lake asked, “I really don’t see why they can’t have separate days for natives.” The ignorance of this woman, who declared it to be “impossible” to take her children to Zoo Lake when natives are there, shows why the laws to protect natives, end violence, and protect whites are not effective. It takes an effort from both blacks and white to create and understanding between the two, and this woman is a clear demonstration of the lack of that. Throughout the rest of that paragraph and other paragraphs in that chapter, the whites refer to the natives as “creatures”. By repeating the use of the word “creatures” alongside the white’s desire for separation, Paton shows how ignorant the whites were of the blacks’ conditions. The woman was disgusted by the blacks in zoo lake, despite the fact that there was no where else for them to go. That ignorance is why the natives must cry for their beloved country to take action.
If one of the leaders like John Kumalo, Dubula, or Tomlinson would enact something to help those people, peace without segregation could be possible. Repetition, where such themes are concerned, is deployed in chapter 12 to create a dramatic effect. It shows the desire and despair in the hearts of the South Africans. Through the similar thoughts of the characters in chapter 12 the eyes of the reader are opened to the necessity of good leadership and laws for the natives and Europeans both.
The Home and Family in The House on Mango Street and Cry, the Beloved Country
The House on Mango Street and Cry, the Beloved Country both involve themes emphasizing the home and family. From the old umfundisi seeking for his prodigal son to Esperanza searching and wanting a place of her own, both of these prolific stories involve how one reacts to the attraction of home and family. These novels have different writing styles and different ideas about the home as a place of refuge and belonging and these ideas are shown throughout each story. Over all, it is the main characters who show through their experiences why they desire to come back to a place they call home.In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza communicates through her experiences that “home” is a dream that looks bleak from the poverty of Mango Street. For example, she says, “I knew then I had to have a real house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The House on Mango Street isn’t it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary says Papa. But I know how those things go” (Cisneros, 5). For Esperanza, a real home is something distant and cloudy, something she can only look forward to in her dreams. Esperanza really desires a home where she can feel like she belongs, a home not just solid on the outside, but on the inside as well. In addition, the poverty on Mango Street causes more heartache for Esperanza and makes her dream even more sorrowful. For example, the shame Esperanza feels when a nun asks her where she lives is shown in her words: “There. I had to look where she was pointing – the third floor, the paint peeling, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn’t fall out” (Cisneros, 5). The mortification Esperanza feels from having to point to the apartment over a “laundromat” with peeling paint and barred windows causes much shame and further solidifies her dream for a “real” house. Here we see the main theme of the novel and one that is woven around the story: Esperanza’s desire to find a physical and emotional space of her own, a place to call home. For Esperanza, her experiences on the poverty – stricken Mango Street shame her, until her dream of a real house is just that.In Cry, the Beloved Country, the old parson’s journey to Johannesburg and back portrays how the author, Alan Paton, felt about the unity and importance of family and nations. For example, a major theme that Paton develops is that family life in South Africa is broken; he illustrates this primarily through the Kumalo family, but then also mentions other instances of broken families, like the Jarvis family. The troubles mentioned in Johannesburg help Kumalo to realize that villages such as Ixopo and the nation of South Africa in general need to be reunited. This is portrayed in another way through the poverty – filled streets of Johannesburg and through the work of Arthur Jarvis, who wrote so the nation of South Africa might come together. In addition, the author makes the journey of Kumalo the central idea to branch off, showing how it is the family that makes up the home. Like Esperanza, Kumalo dreams of a house, not a house of his own, but a house united by family. This is a key difference between the main characters of each novel; Esperanza wants a house strong on the outside, one that appears beautiful, while Kumalo wants a house strong on the inside, one that is united by family. Paton seeks to show the importance of a united family by portraying the sights that Kumalo sees while on his journey to find his son.Both of these interesting novels provide insights into the culture that surrounded the time that these books were written, and it is the culture that provides background and ideas for each novel. For example, the adjustment of Esperanza as she moves from place to place was a predominant issue for every Latina girl who was poor. The way Cisneros used Esperanza as a narrator helped the readers to understand the problems ethnic families, especially Hispanics faced in big cities. This was a major factor and underlying theme that Cisneros wanted to show in her novel: the hardships facing a poor Latina girl. In addition, Paton attempts to weave the concept of apartheid, a key argument for South Africa, throughout the parson’s journey to exemplify the need for the unity of races. Paton intended to remind the reader of the real reason of the hatred and poverty of Johannesburg and other countries: the hatred of one race for another. As Msimangu says, “I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it” (Paton, 460). This theme is again conveyed in Msimangu’s words, “I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating.” Both authors provide cultural references and insertions to help the reader understand the reasons for the writing of each novel.These novels were written by authors who intended to send a message to the people of their day. Although the times are later and the ideas have changed, these books still hold forth truths to heed. Alan Paton seemed to say, “hold on to your family and appreciate them, they may not be around later.” And as for Esperanza, she seems to say that we should value our family, strive for something better, and never lose you dreams. Both authors seem to want all readers to remember that the journey of life through the big city is hard, but with family united by love it is like coming home again.
The Beloved Country Cries in Pain
Written at the pinnacle of South Africa’s social and racial crisis, Alan Paton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country traces the struggle of two families, black and white, through their shared suffering and the devotion to their beloved country that unites them in the end. Paton thoughtfully weaves his plot to show the diverse population’s differing viewpoints on many social issues, mostly through the eyes of the main characters. His unique sense of style manifests, however, through his use of intercalary chapters, chapters in the novel which in no way contribute to the storyline, but rather exemplify the terrible social situations in parts of South Africa unknown to the main characters and, therefore, the reader. The book is, in essence, politically allegorical. Paton offers the fictional story of a humble black priest and an enlightened white man’s final harmonization, through which a former wasteland returns to fertility, to reveal to the rest of South Africa that all hope for the future is not lost.A description begins the novel: “there is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.” The author speaks of the beauty of Africa, but rapidly the tone changes into that of despair: “But the rich hills break down…for they grow red and bare; they cannot hold the rain and mist, and the streams are dry…” The symbolic redness of the earth signifies blood; a land formed in the bloodshed of war; a nation bleeding in anguish at the degradation of her people.A simple country priest, Stephen Kumalo, lives this degradation; everywhere, his small village of Ndotsheni is dying. The traditional tribe is disintegrating, the chief a meaningless figurehead, and the real power replaced with the white man’s authority: Christianity. The village is made of “old men and old women, of mothers and children,” because the able-bodied youth are leaving. “The maize hardly reaches the height of a man…” Kumalo laments, always saying more than just words. Food becomes scarcer as the land grows sicker, and with no food in the rural areas, the native people leave their ancestral homes and travel to what they believe is opportunity: the great city of Johannesburg. It is there that utter moral corruption sets in, for those who go to Johannesburg “never come back.”Stephen Kumalo experiences this knowledge first-hand, through his sister, Gertrude, who left to find her husband who also never returned from the city, and his own son, Absalom, who went looking for work and eventually just stopped writing. With the arrival of a mysterious letter speaking of Gertrude’s desperate need for help, Kumalo embarks upon a quest to Johannesburg hoping to discover the whereabouts and situation of his lost family.A naive man, he is shocked by what he finds there, and how the city has betrayed the native people into depravity. Illegal alcohol, prostitution, thievery, and even murder abound among the natives in the writhing cesspool of Johannesburg. Yet even through this, Kumalo is able to find a friend in a fellow priest Msimangu, and together they begin to search for the remnants of the old man’s kin. Gertrude, to his dismay, has become no exception to this rule: she is a prostitute, selling her body for money, because she has no other means by which to support herself and her son. Upon discovery, however, she immediately repents her sinful ways, giving Kumalo hope that perhaps Absalom, too, will see the light when found. But his son is not found, not at least, until it is too late. Retracing Absalom’s steps, the elderly priest is confronted by the frightening truths of the city’s wretchedness: he searches through junkyard “Shanty Towns” where the unemployed live in pitiful houses made from scraps of tin, and through crowded rent-houses filled with prostitutes, thieves, and frightened people. Fear pervades throughout this first part of the novel; whites afraid of the blacks, blacks afraid of the whites, and blacks even afraid of each other. It is in desperate fear that Kumalo finally finds his son. Absalom, a former perpetrator of petty crimes, has finally committed the greatest sin of all: murder, ironically, the murder of a white man most committed to helping the impoverished blacks, Arthur Jarvis. The grief-stricken priest must find a lawyer for his son and prepare for the possibility of the death sentence if Absalom were to be convicted. The trial is filled with injustice, from minor representations of early apartheid, such as different seating areas for whites and blacks, to the actual results of the case: Absalom Kumalo is sentenced to death, even though the murder was unintentional, a robbery gone bad, and Absalom had fired “only out of fear.” At any other time period, murder without malice would have been confined to a sentence of manslaughter. The author makes it clear that most likely, the unfair sentence was due to the fact that with apartheid, a black man murdering a white man deserves none but the ultimate punishment.But with death comes rebirth. Kumalo can only take some joy that his son’s girlfriend is with child, and eagerly wants to return to Ndotsheni with Kumalo, away from the perversions of the city. This unborn child, along with Gertrude’s son, gives the reader a first glimpse of hope in the younger generation; instead of leaving the village to go to the city and be corrupted, children from the city are returning to their homelands and back to morality.Book II opens with a description similar to the opening of the novel describing Ndotsheni: “there is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills.” However, this is where the similarity ends. This description moves not from the hills into the barren valleys, but rather up “on the tops,” where “the grass is rich and matted,” and there is “one of the finest farms of (the) countryside.” It is called High Place, where the father of Arthur Jarvis, James, coincidentally lives, literally neighbors with the starving village of Ndotsheni.James Jarvis plays an increasingly important role by the end of Books II and III, as his relationship with the Zulu pastor becomes closer, brought together by the mutual respect of having both, in one way or another, lost a son. Ironically, it is only through Arthur Jarvis’ death, that James Jarvis, upon perusal of his son’s manuscripts on native crime, begins to question his own views on “the native question.” The elder Jarvis, having never before taken his son very seriously, feels a quiet obligation to his son’s memory to understand what he believed in. He reads about Abraham Lincoln, the “great emancipator,” who freed the black slaves in America almost a century earlier. He also reads the many articles his son wrote, and about the activist organizations Arthur was a part of, and feelings of forgiveness begin to replace the hatred in his heart. Throughout the novel and with his son’s death, James Jarvis is faced with a crossroads: he could take the path of revenge and therefore destruction; or, the path of forgiveness, making something positive out of such a tragedy. Jarvis chooses forgiveness, and thus begins the restoration, in some small way, of South Africa.In Johannesburg, Jarvis donates a large amount of money to his son’s favorite foundation, dedicated to helping the black population. Back in Ndotsheni, Jarvis realizes why infertility engulfs the land, that is, the Zulus do not have the agricultural knowledge to correctly farm, being a naturally nomadic people. He immediately hires a knowledgeable agricultural instructor, to teach the people how to farm. This is a first step towards restoring the tribe, as now with food and work in the fields, the youth can stay with their families. He promises a new church, reaffirming the role of religion and spirituality in the villager’s lives.Near the end of the novel, Arthur Jarvis’ son, staying with his grandfather, comes to visit and “talk Zulu” with Stephen Kumalo. The boy, hearing that the children are sick because they have no milk to drink, rides away and milk is delivered the next day to the dying children, saving many lives. The boy represents the hope for the younger white generation. He is interested in Zulu culture, not destroying it, and actually cares about the welfare of the black children. He is clearly his father’s son.The final scene of the novel symbolically illustrates fertility and rebirth returning to the land, through the different colors of Africa uniting together and achieving an ultimate good in the face of destruction. The titihoya, a rare bird who cries only in fertile areas, awakens and takes flight. Light and dark imagery contrast, with light representing knowledge and awakening: “Yes, it is dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. Ndotsheni is still in darkness, but it will come there also.” The dawn also represents a dawn of a new age, impressing upon the reader that peace is possible with total love and forgiveness, but when, “why, that is a secret.”
Love Overcoming Fear
When Arthur Jarvis is shot and killed, a key event to the plot, the Bishop himself comes to the funeral and talks of “a life devoted to South Africa, of intelligence and courage, of love that cast out fear” (181). This idea of love versus fear is obviously important to the author, and the theme can be seen continually. Some might argue that this is the main theme; proof of this point would come from observing the characters’ actions. Many characters in the book Cry, the Beloved Country express the belief that the power of love can overcome the power of fear by fighting personal emotional battles, having compassion for others, or sharing and having faith in love.Kumalo’s journey from Ndotsheni to Johannesburg and back demonstrates numerous times how strong love can be and how much it can do. His love for his son and sister remains constant throughout his fear for his own reputation and for the shame he might endure for defending them. Because of his love for his family, Kumalo comes back to Ndotsheni and humbly prays for God to “forgive her her [and him his] trespasses” rather than turning his back on the truth and pretending that nothing had happened (258). The Bishop himself urges Kumalo to move somewhere where “those things would not be known”, but Kumalo’s love of the land, the peoples’ love for him, and the love that had replaced the fear between Jarvis and Kumalo all stepped in to prevent Kumalo from shying from the situation (295). Kumalo also shows the power of love when others are in pain. When Absalom is facing and “is afraid of death”, Kumalo comforts him with a “deep compassion” that was “within him”, demonstrating once again the force of love (241). Since he had previously spoken “bitterly” and “harshly” of his son, this situation also shows Kumalo overcoming his own fear and anger with his love for Absalom. Immediately after hearing the news of Absalom’s capture, Kumalo seems broken and tired. When Kumalo sees the pain that John is going through, though, he “walks now more firmly”, gaining strength from the love that he has for his brother (129). As Kumalo tried to tell John, “love is greater than force”; it is obvious by Kumalo’s actions that he lived by these beliefs (245).Arthur Jarvis’ life was spent trying to show the effectiveness of love over fear; instead of hiding in his house like most of the whites in Johannesburg, Arthur tried to form a bond with the blacks through love and compassion and faith. Arthur understood the plight of the blacks in Johannesburg and understood why they took the actions that they did, and instead of condemning them and being afraid of them, he took the time to think about where the fault really lay. Because of his love for his country, Arthur saw the hypocrisy of the whites, admitted that the whites had a mix of “great ideal and fearful practice”, and tried to be a man that would get along with those who hated him because of the injustices done to them (188). That Arthur became a sort of champion of the blacks is not surprising; he was a white man brave enough to stand up and say that, although it was good economically for the country, considering blacks to be unequal to whites was unfair and “not permissible” (178). Arthur “aspire[d] to the highest” (208) in all aspects; it is clear that he succeeded because he won over the friendships “white people, black people, coloured people, Indians” (181). When Arthur died, his black friends showed the deepest remorse, and this is the most impressive proof possible that Arthur did conquer the fear between blacks and whites with the love that he had for his country; it was that love that pushed him to “devote his energy…to the service of South Africa” and that allowed him to overpower some of the fear existing there (208). Even his funeral showed his great influence, as it was the first time that Jarvis and his wife had sat in a church with people who “were not white” (181), and also because the church was “too small” for all the people wanting to come.James Jarvis shows that love can conquer fear through the compassion and understanding he displays after his son’s death. Jarvis was hurt by his son’s death, but he did not isolate himself or become fearful or angry. He knew Kumalo was afraid of him, but he replaced this fear by showing compassion in small things, like asking if “there is mercy”; this simple question shows that Jarvis does not blame Kumalo and has sympathy for the position that he is in (279). It would have been very easy for Jarvis to become bitter, but it seems that Arthur’s papers somehow opened his eyes to the situation in South Africa. Jarvis was “shocked and hurt” by the implications of some of Arthur’s papers, but his love and respect for his son made him continue reading (207). By doing this, he saw the truth in Arthur’s words, and he could fully face the situation with no fear. He learned that Arthur was satisfied with his life, and that he would “rather die” than not help the blacks (208). Jarvis’ love for Arthur allowed him to see Arthur’s arguments and turned him into a more generous man. When Jarvis heard of the need for milk in Ndotsheni, he immediately sent many “shining cans” to the father of the man who killed his son; it was a great act of compassion (271). Jarvis suddenly became a great man who righted all his wrong-doings, restored the land, became an equal to the blacks, erased the fear between the blacks and him, and no longer placed so much value on money and production. This was all because of his love for Arthur and was done “in memory of [his] beloved son” (296). When his wife died, it was most likely a great comfort to him to know that the people of Ndotsheni were “grieved” as he was because it showed that he had achieved the same kind of respect that Arthur had, and it let him know he didn’t stand alone (292). He accomplished all of this because of love and faith.Stephen Kumalo, Arthur Jarvis, and James Jarvis are three main characters that convey the author’s belief that love can win over fear. This idea, along with the related concept of destruction versus rebuilding, reveals the reason that Paton wrote this book. If the book was skimmed, it might be seen as extremely depressing and bleak, but in truth, it is a book that reveals the potential of and the possibilities existing in South Africa. Through studying different characters and their fight against fear, something else reveals itself. If a white in South Africa is fair and has love for her/his country, she/he is immediately hailed as heroes, and the loss of her/his life is grieved by everyone, even respectable people like the Bishop. It is also much easier for a white to open up her/his heart, considering that she/he has all the power and considerable economic resources. When a black woman/man is good and devoid of evil for her/his entire life, however, she/he will earn only minimal respect and will not be seen as a gift from God or anything else glorious. At the same time that Paton was reflecting on the hope that should exist in South Africa, he was also revealing many problems still existing in the country. It seems that the country will advance, but more politically than socially.
Footprints in the Sand
“‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?'” (Matthew 7:3). Scholars are fast to uphold the severe wisdom of this advice, yet very few are entirely capable of following it. Numerous authors have written upon this topic, one of whom is Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country. Many debates have been sparked by this book due to Paton’s ability to examine the plank in his eye, South Africa. Even the essence of the book’s title examines South Africa and declares the presence of the inner conflict of its citizens. The importance and meaning of the title of Cry, the Beloved Country is visible in Paton’s efforts to link the reader to forthcoming ideas in the novel, Paton’s description of South Africa’s problems, and Paton’s prayer for the solution of South Africa’s difficulties with race and racial oppression.One way Paton connects the reader to the racial tension in the novel is through the repetition of the thematic title throughout key events in the novel. Paton often uses the wording of the title within the text to express the pain inflicted by South Africa’s moral conflict, racial segregation and oppression. Paton uses the repetition to connect events in the story with the overall theme, altering the context slightly each time. At one point, Paton expresses the anguish of the broken African society and the transformation and assimilation into a white man’s society of hatred and separation. Paton pleads, “Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end” (Paton 73-74). By creating links between major events and minor characters, Paton’s repetition slowly delves into one’s mind and leaves the indelible mark of a quest for liberty and freedom so that one again views the title, it is as if one sees the cover for the first time, and one realizes how much is held in the few words of “cry, the beloved country.”Another way Alan Paton relates the title of Cry, the Beloved Country to the subject matter of the story is through personal identification with the reader’s feelings. Paton plays upon the maternal or paternal instincts within everyone, finding a chord and playing upon it, evoking fear or wisdom or sadness through his powerfully chosen yet simple words. At one point, Stephen Kumalo searches for his son in the wide streets of Johannesburg. He fears that his son has done something terribly bad, and for the reverend, this is almost more than he can bear. Paton narrates, “Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeplyÖFor fear will rob him of all if he gives too much” (Paton 80). The reverend’s despair is evident in his fear of love for the earth and that which lies within the earth. Because of the appearance of the book’s title at such a critical juncture, one cannot keep oneself hereafter from connecting the title of the book to this point in the novel.On the other hand, Paton delves into South Africa’s problems with unity and erosion, conveying a sense of how a beautiful country is going to waste due to petty morals. Paton brings up the controversy of apartheid and inequality present in a country that cannot rise from the past, yet tries to participate in the present. When James Jarvis reads the work of his deceased son, Arthur, he finds shocking evidence and realizations of what the white men have done to South Africa in the name of improvement. Arthur wrote convincingly about the fault of white men for inflicting segregation and causing nothing but harm because of it. Arthur wrote, “It is true that we hoped to preserve the tribal system by a policy of segregation. That was permissible. But we never did it thoroughly or honestlyÖWe are caught in toils of our own selfishness” (Paton 146). Because of the white man’s desire to separate the black men from the white men, a system filled with flaws has resulted, causing the white men more trouble than good in their struggle against a system of their own creation.Another explanation of Cry, the Beloved Country can be found when one researches into the history of segregation and white man’s oppression of “inferior races” in the name of Christianity. Paton discusses the hypocrisy of a race of men who strive to make the world better and proclaim equality for all, yet cannot accept another human being as a man. In the last speech that Arthur Jarvis wrote before he was murdered by Stephen Kumalo’s son, Arthur realized that white men have oppressed the blacks “for their own good” and with a perfect belief that what they are doing is acceptable and just because the Africans are not human, and therefore do not deserve all the rights the white men deserve. Arthur proclaims, “The truth is that our Christian civilization is riddled through and through with dilemma. We believe in the brotherhood of man, but we do not want it in South Africa” (Paton 154). The truth that Paton reveals through the medium of Arthur Jarvis is that South Africa has a double-standard: one standard for the rights of man all over the world, the other for the rights of man within South Africa. Somehow, these two ideas are not even comparable, even falling under entirely different categories of humanity.Later, Paton deals with South Africa’s racial troubles before one page has even been turned. A conflict is present in the very title, Cry, the Beloved Country. Paton uses this simple phrase time and again to express grief and hope over South Africa’s stale position, a position that has long been lost in the bitter tangle of oppression and segregation. When the African community discovers that the white government is considering a complete segregation of the country, there are extremely mixed reactions evoked by the finality of such a step. Paton quips, “Yes, there are a hundred, and a thousand voices crying. But what does one do, when one cries this thing, and one cries another? Who knows how we shall fashion a land of peace where black outnumbers white so greatly?” (Paton 78). The common verb, to cry, appears here also, in the reaction of the fearful and outraged native peoples. One discovers that the title conveys these reactions that, though they vary as much as the colors in the rainbow, all share a sense of deep sadness, a searing loss of pride and unity.Another example of Paton’s hope for unity can be found in a call to prayer. Often, when the characters of the book are involved in huge inner struggles, they turn to prayer, finding peace and the strength to wait for the greater solution that lies beyond, though they cannot see it with their mortal eyes. While Reverend Kumalo wrestles with the horridness of the murder his son has committed, Father Vincent helps him to focus on the greater picture, to hope for others, to pray for others who can see no end to their difficulties drawing near. Father Vincent aides Kumalo with an outsider’s perspective, convincing Kumalo to pray for those who cannot reach out for prayer. Father Vincent advises, “‘And why you go on, when it would seem better to die, that is a secret. Do not pray and think about these things now, there will be other times. Pray for Gertrude, and for her child, and for the girl that is to be your son’s wife, and for the child that will be your grandchild'” (Paton 110). Paton’s advice is nothing less than wisdom, helping others to see the greater picture without despair. “Cry, the beloved country,” he seems to say, “but pray also. Pray for the beloved country, for its improvement, and its rebirth.”Through the creation of a parallel with the reader, an in-depth study of South Africa’s difficulties, and a strong hope for the solution of racial segregation, one discovers the true meaning of Cry, the Beloved Country. One discovers Alan Paton’s gift of expression through the telling of a man’s epic journey through life, a man who finally discovers the meaning of love and loss, though he leaves nothing but footprints in the blowing sand. Each day, in every part of the world, one more person learns to live and to love, to feel from the bottom of one’s heart for a land so beautiful that no words can describe the attraction for fear it will appear fickle. After all, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
The Interrelated Structure of Cry, the Beloved Country
Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country exhibits the effects of living in Johannesburg; though it is a city divided by race, its inhabitants lead parallel lives (Cry, the Beloved Country 33-312). The lives of the two main characters, Stephen Kumalo and James Jarvis, are first depicted separately, giving each a quality of distinctness and independence (33-210). When Kumalo and Jarvis meet, however, it is clear that they parallel one another, leading similar lifestyles and experiencing similar tragedies (33-216). The underlying element of style throughout Cry, the Beloved Country is subtle symbolism, for there are significant details whose importance are not immediately obvious. Cry, the Beloved Country is composed of three books, each structured to give insight into the separate lives Kumalo and Jarvis, while subtly showing how each life is interrelated (33-312). The first book describes the plight of Stephen Kumalo, a native of South Africa, as he journeys through Johannesburg. It introduces Kumalo as the protagonist and sets up the framework for the conflicts he soon encounters. Johannesburg acts as both the setting and the antagonist, for it is where racism, crime, and poverty dwell, and is the source of Kumalo’s misery (33-312). Its effects are seen in the quote, ìCry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom is goneÖCry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an endî (105). That Kumalo discovers his sister’s prostitution, his brother’s superficiality, and his son’s criminal activities in Johannesburg shows the city to have entrapped his family, as well as its inhabitants, into a stage of declining morality (33-312). The second book shows James Jarvis as he mourns for his murdered son. The change in point of view to concentrate on Jarvis’ character adds depth to Cry, the Beloved Country, showing a reaction to the crime committed by Absalom, Kumalo’s son. Because Jarvis’ actions and emotions are seen, he becomes an active character (161-312). The climatic scene occurs when Kumalo and Jarvis meet for the first time, representing the confrontation of emotion and tension each person has felt since their discovery of the murder (211-216). When Kumalo says, ìÖThis thing is the heaviest thing of all my years, is the heaviest thing of all your years alsoî (214), he is trying to show Jarvis that both are grieving over their sons and are in similar circumstances. This confrontation signifies the parallel between the two men’s lives (33-216). The third book exists for Kumalo and Jarvis to come to a resolution to their situation. There were factors, such as the prevalence of racism and the irony that his murdered son was a defender of the social injustices of natives, that would have supported Jarvis’ hatred for Kumalo (253-312). When Jarvis says, ìI have seen a manÖwho was in darkness till you found him. If that is what you do, I give it willinglyî (307), he is acknowledging the goodness of Kumalo’s intentions as a pastor. Jarvis’ generosity in rebuilding the church, cultivating the land, and improving the lifestyle of Kumalo’s village signifies his carrying on of his son’s legacy to help the struggling natives. The third book serves to resolve the tension between Kumalo and Jarvis, and, representatively, ease the tension between the natives and the whites of South Africa (253-312). The three books that structure Cry, the Beloved Country serve to tie together the lives of Kumalo and Jarvis, who are plagued by grief for their lost sons. The interrelation of the books also demonstrates the dependency that both men feel for one another. Kumalo’s goodness as a servant of God, his family, and his people gives Jarvis inspiration to continue his son’s legacy. Jarvis’ aid to Kumalo’s village restores the natives’ hope in the whites that run their country. The simplistic language used supports the subtlety of symbolism, creating a smoothly flowing style. The division of Cry, the Beloved Country into three books thus creates three stages representing grief, confrontation, and hope (33-312).
Quest for the Son and Suffering in Cry, The Beloved Country
Throughout the novel Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, Paton uses suffering and the quest for the son together to add to the tragic framework of the novel. Paton uses suffering, an element derived from Greek tragedy in which the main protagonist(s) of the novel are subjected to hardship and pain, to enhance the experience that Kumalo and Jarvis endure in the quest for their sons. Kumalo and Jarvis’ quest for their sons contribute to the tragic framework of the novel because of the suffering that it causes. Both Kumalo and Jarvis’ quest for their sons begin with the murder of Arthur Jarvis, James Jarvis’ son, and the resulting suffering that it causes both of them. Furthermore, they both realize that their sons were total strangers to them, causing them suffering seeing them so different from who their fathers had known. Also in the quest for their sons, they both realize the suffering of the native people, causing both protagonists great suffering with their newfound knowledge.
The realization that Arthur Jarvis had been murdered is marked as the beginning of both Kumalo and Jarvis’ quest for their sons as well as their suffering. Kumalo had gone Johannesburg in search of his missing relatives: Gertrude, John and his son, Absalom. Upon arriving in the city, he finds both Gertrude and John quickly but has difficulty in finding his son. He looks to his friend Msimangu with whom he searches all of Johannesburg for the whereabouts of his son. After a long period of searching, Kumalo is finally told by the white man at the reformatory that his son had been arrested for the murder of a white man. Upon learning of the severity of his son’s crime, Kumalo “nodded his head again, one, two, three, four, times … and nodded to them again” (Paton 126). Although he did not express his suffering in a obvious way, the repeated nodding intimates the fact that he was suffering both mentally and physically. His strange behaviour is most probably because he was in shock over what his son had done. The severe shock could also be attributed to him being a preacher and a man of God who would considers murder to be the worst sin of all and finding that his own son could have done such a thing, causing him great pain both as a father and a man of God. Along with the arrest of Kumalo’s son, Jarvis also began his quest for the son after his murder. He had been at his estate in Ndotsheni when he learned of his son’s death through van Jaarsveld, telling him “He was shot dead at 1:30 P.M. this afternoon in Johannesburg” (165). Upon the conformation of his worst fears, Jarvis also experiences suffering through shock. He sits down and then is dazed when he walked down the mountain to return and tell his wife. Before the police came to inform him and his wife of his son’s death, James had been content to live and stay within the narrow, comfortable confines of his estate. After finding out about the news of their son’s death, James is forced upon an emotional and mental quest for who his son had been. Although Jarvis’ quest for the son had begun with the death of his son and Kumalo’s quest for his son had truly begun upon hearing of the imprisonment of his son for murdering a white man, this marks the beginning of the quest for their sons on a deeper, more emotional level considering that they barely knew the strangers that were their sons, and as a way to cope with their suffering
As Kumalo and Jarvis progress through the quest for their sons, they suffer due to the complete strangers that their sons had become. After all his searching for the whereabouts of his son, Kumalo had finally found him to have been imprisoned waiting for his trial. Upon having his son brought out before him, Kumalo begins questioning him:
— Why did you do this terrible thing, my child?
The young man stirs watchfully, the white warder makes no sign, perhaps he does not know this tongue. There is a moisture in the boy’s eyes, he turns his head from side to side, and makes no answer. 130)
As Kumalo continues to question his son, he realizes that the person that stood in front of him was a stranger. He had to ask his son why he would do such a thing because it differed so violently from the boy that he had raised in the ideals of Christianity. He suffers throughout the interaction with his son as he discovered a cold, unfeeling man instead of the loving young boy that he had known before. Thus, his quest for his son had ended in a physical sense considering the fact that he had found his son but, he had found a stranger occupying the body of his son with a wholly different personality than the one that he attributed to his son. Along with Kumalo’s quest of his son, Jarvis’ quest for his son continues after he arriving in Johannesburg to be received by the Harrisons, Mary’s parents. After settling down, he sat down to listen to Mr. Harrison on what happened and who his son truly was. As he sat listening “to this tale of his son” he soon realizes that he is listening to the “tale of a stranger” (172). This causes Jarvis to realize how little he knew the man that he called his son, causing him great pain as he had as a parent never seen this for himself within his son. Jarvis’ quest for his son is one that opens his eyes, spreading them past the provincial outlook he held before to one where he was able to consider the worldly and all-encompassing views that his son now shared with him. His suffering is further enhanced by the irony that his son, the man that fought for the rights of the natives, had been killed by the very people he tried to defend. Jarvis’ realization of his son being a stranger and Kumalo’s quest for his son also yielding a similar result of a stranger lead to more suffering for both of the main protagonists of the novel.
As Kumalo and Jarvis progress through the quest for their sons, Jarvis realizes through the stranger that was his son, that the natives that he had been ignorant up to that point were suffering, while Kumalo sees the full extent of his people’s suffering. Kumalo realizes through his quest for his son, that the white man broke the tribe throughout South Africa and it had been replaced with nothing. He sees as he wanders through Johannesburg, the sights of his people in shantytowns and slums and it causes him great pain. This suffering is thus imprinted in Kumalo and he strives throughout the rest of the novel to try to mend the broken tribe in any way he could. Upon arriving back at the Ndotsheni after the sentencing of his son, he continues forward with this new outlook on the condition of his people noting that the white men had “knocked these chiefs down, and put them up again, to hold the pieces together … rulers of pitiful kingdoms that had no meaning at all” (264). This causes him emotional suffering because he through the quest for the son has his ignorance wiped away, allowing him to see the system that they whites had laid out for his people and the pathetic form that the tribe had been reduced to. Along with Kumalo, Jarvis also comes to know of the suffering of the natives. He learns of this through the essays that his son had written saying, “It is not permissible to mine any gold… if such mining… depend for their success on a policy of keeping labour poor” (178). Jarvis discovers the personality of his son and the kind of things that he stood for while also learning of the condition of the natives. He realizes that the system that he had ignored for such a long time was one built on exploitation and it leads to suffering as he saw that he was a part of the system that perpetuated these problems. Seeing the world from his son’s point of view allowed him to both find out who he was while also passing the suffering and pain of know that he was part of the problem. As Kumalo and Jarvis come to the end of their quest for their sons, they discovered native suffering and the widening of their provincial viewpoints.
In Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, Paton uses both suffering and quest for their sons to add to the tragic framework of the play. Beginning with Kumalo and Jarvis’ quest for their sons with the murder of Arthur Jarvis and its resulting suffering, Jarvis and Kumalo both realize that their sons were total strangers to them, causing them further suffering since they are the ones that should have known them most. Finally, as their quest for their sons comes to a close, they both realize the suffering of the native people, causing both protagonists great suffering with their newfound knowledge.