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, Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom is gone Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end (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, This thing is the heaviest thing of all my years, is the heaviest thing of all your years also (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, I have seen a man, who was in darkness till you found him. If that is what you do, I give it willingly? (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).
Eudora Welty born 13 April 1909 and died 23 July 2001, both in Jackson, Mississippi. Welty went to Mississippi State College before she transferred to the University of Wisconsin. Her […]
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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 […]