“at is the inheritor of it all. Let him not love the earth to deeply. Let him not
be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give to
much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of
all if he lives too much. Yes cry, cry, the beloved country” “Cry The
Beloved Country” by Alan Paton. “Cry The Beloved Country” was a
magnificent work of art and my words alone would do it an injustice.
Its pages echo with the dirge of a battered country that has suffered
far to much for far to long.
The book takes you to South Africa, where the land itself is the
essence of a man. It as if the mountains, soaring high above the
clouds, are the high moments in life, and the valleys are those low
and suffering times. Next, you will take a journey to a place called
Johannesburg. While reading the pages, begin to envision Johannesburg
being a polluted, very unkind, and rushed city. The setting is more of
a emotional setting than a physical setting. As I stated it takes
place in South Africa, 1946. This is a time where racial
discrimination is at an all time high. The black community of this
land is trying to break free from the white people, but having little
success. It is this so called racism that is essential to the setting
of the story. Without it, the book would not have as much of an impact
as it does.
The story begins, as many great stories have begun, with a
solitary man taking a long and dangerous journey to a distant land.
The man is an Anglican Zulu priest, Rev. Stephen Kumalo, and the
journey is to the white-ran Johannesburg in 1946. Like a weary prophet
taking a biblical sojourn to Sodom, Kumalo is seeking out lost members
of his family who have left the townships for the lights of the big
city. He is looking for his sister Gertrude, who has become a
prostitute: and mostly, his son Absalom, who has disappeared into the
darkness as surely as the original Absalom of the Old Testament was
lost to King David. Once he arrives, the nave Kumalo is immediately
robbed, and it isnt until he finds the enigmatic but helpful Father
Msimangu that he is able to begin his search, a search that will
change his life forever.
He finds his sister, who is not expecting his arrivial, so, he
tells her that she and her child will go back with him. Next he wanted
to find his son, but he had no idea where to start, so Kumalo had
told Msimangu that his brother lives in Johannesburg. Msimangu
immediately knows who he is, for Kumalo’s brother was a big time
politician who has no need for the church. After talking to his
brother Kumalo learns the location of his sons girlfriend, and goes to
meet her. Upon arriving he finds that his son has gotten this girl
pregnant and has left her. The girl knew where he was supposed to be
going. Doing a little digging Kumalo finds his son has killed a man.
Ironically, Arthur Jarvis, killed by Absalom, had dedicated his life
to fighting apartheid.
Upon finding this Kumalo searches out for James Jarvis, white
wealthy land-owner, father of Arthur, to apologize and give him money
for his sons wrong doing. Jarvis then comes to a realization and
decides to build Kumalo a church because he now understands what
Kumalos people were going through.
Rev. Stephen Kumalo was a man of great moral value. He was very
firm in his beliefs, yet very nave when it came to the “real world.”
Kumalo could not imagine why his son did what he did nor did he want
to except the fact that it was solely his sons fault for killing a
man. The same goes for his sister, the prostitute, he thought that
she did what she did because she enjoyed it, but in all actuality she
was a prostitute so her son could have a better life. Kumalo was a
very emotional man, who dealt with his problem to the best of his
knowledge. At the beginning you can tell he is a very caring
individual for he allowed a child to eat at his home when she had
nothing to eat at hers. Kumalo was a main element in the plot. The
reason he was so important, through out all the trials that he faced
he never once buckled and he never once question why it was him and
not someone else.
Mr. James Jarvis was a to-proud land owner that suffered not only
for the loss of his son, but also the belated realization that his son
spent all of his time fighting against everything his he stood for. He
was a raciest man, and had no compassion for the black, until the end.
Surprisingly he was very much like Kumalo. They both had strong
beliefs, were set in their ways, and neither one understood their
sons. Jarvis was a key element in the plot because he was almost
exactly alike Kumalo.
Kumalo and Jarvis both changed tremendously in this story. They
both came to a realization of the world around them. It was ironic
that at the very end of the story, when Kumalo went to the mountain to
pray for his son (who was being executed that day), that Jarvis said
that he too would think about Absalom, and that he would build a new
church for Kumalo. It was like the realization that Doug had in
“Dandelion Wine” but much more complex.
I stated at the beginning that my words alone would do an
injustice on this book. I firmly believe that because this book was a
life experience, that it is to complex and to profound to put into
words. It was a great book, Paton took a tragedy and made it into a
lesson on life that every individual can relate to. I like the
perspective he took on it, it was as if you became the character
and you felt the same emotions thathe does. I also like how he divided
the book into two different books. That event gave the reader a
feeling a segregation which was what the black people felt in that day
The only thing that I did not like about the book was some of his
wording was a little confusing and I had to read it several times.
Also he was a complex writer. I thought that sometimes he took the
“round about way” of getting to his point.
I think that the theme that Paton was trying to get people to see
to forgive people for something they have no control over. He shows
this when Kumalo goes to Jarvis house to apologize for what his son
did. Also, he shows the theme when Jarvis tells Kumalo that he will
build him a church. When he decides to build the church it is his way
of apologizing to all the black people for his wrong doing.
This books power comes not from explosions of raw anger or
unexpected plot twists, but from the tragic simplicity of its tale.