Book Analysis of Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country is a book that was written by Alan Paton, a South African writer. The novel describes the relationship between two fathers, Stephen Kumalo, John Kumalo, James Jarvisand , and their children, and the conflict between different races that live in their country (Paton 8). The author writes about the problems of South Africa of that time and about the eternal problem of the generation gap. Thus, two of the major important themes of the story are racial inequality, its influence on the life of the South African community, and the development of relationships between fathers and their sons.
Cry, the Beloved Country is a story set in 1946 about the Reverend Stephen Kumalo, who receives a letter from Msimangu, another reverend from the City of Johannesburg, saying that his sister is sick and is in need of help (Paton 15). Kumalo’s travel to Johannesburg leads him to learn that his sister became a drug abusing prostitute, and his son Absalom became a criminal. Together with his brother John, who has also thrown his son out of home, they try to find Absalom, but in vain. Later they learn that Absalom in the company of Mathew, the son of John, and another person killed a white man named Arthur Jarvis during a robbery attempt (Paton 22). The author also describes how James Jarvis’s attitude towards black people transformed after reading the writings of his son, and he no longer felt hate towards those who had killed him.
The theme of racial inequity is quite strong in the story. During the time when the book was written, South Africa was struggling with the issues of the Apartheid rule by the whites. The white people of the country feared the consequences of the local black people taking influential positions (Paton 21). The black people, in their turn, were afraid of the continued oppression by the whites. The young black men, such as Absalom, moved from villages to find employment in urban areas because the lands were the blacks lived were too poor for any economically profitable agriculture. The white people, on the other hand, ensured that the blacks would not enjoy the natural resources found in their lands, such as gold. The problem of racial inequality was quite important in the described community because it defined its course of development and social life (Paton 29). Such inequality led to the crimes performed by the natives, poverty, and hopelessness. Besides, the theme of racial oppression is topical even in the modern world, which makes the issue actual.
The theme of the relationship between fathers and sons is important as well because this is an eternal question, and most of the times, there is a generation gap between parents and their children in most societies. Due to the generation gap, conflicts arise between fathers and sons. Parents often think they know what is good for their sons, while sons, on the other hand, desire to be allowed to follow their hearts in living their lives. Alan Paton shows that parents of any race love their children even if they do bad things. They may not express their love openly, and they may even act strictly, but parents, in most cases, wish only the best for their children (Paton 10). The theme is important because it shows how the relations between the members of the South African community affected their life and how the younger generation had different views and values from their parents.
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Alan Paton develops the theme of racial inequity through the depiction of conflicts between the different characters in the story. For example, James Jarvis does not agree with his son’s view of the equal treatment of all races. The conflicting views of the white man and his son are used to highlight how not every white person supported racial discrimination and injustices against the black people of South Africa. When Arthur Jarvis dies, the father begins reading his writings, and he becomes convinced that the boy was right. Unfortunately, the conflict is resolved only as a result of a family tragedy. Such a development of the theme shows how some instances of racial discrimination were committed due to ignorance. The description of the politics of that time and the setting of the story in the time when South Africa was struggling with racism was also helpful in the development of the theme. For example, the writer uses the character of Dubula, a black politician, to highlight the fight against racial discrimination against black people.
The author uses the characters like John Kumalo and his son Matthew, Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalon, and James Jarvis and his son Arthur to develop the theme of the relationship between fathers and their sons. The theme is highlighted by the development of the characters’ attitude towards one another and by the depiction of conflicts between them (Paton 30). For instance, Stephen Kumalo loves his son, but he does not like his criminal actions. As much as he hates his actions, he still hires a lawyer with the help of John, his brother. The author also uses specific language to build the theme. For example, Kumalo keeps asking his son, “why?” (Paton 14). This shows that as much as fathers may not like the characters of their sons, they still love them and try to protect them. John, on the other hand, disagrees with his son so much that he throws him out of house. However, he and Kumalo still hire attorneys to represent them in court. The author shows that fathers may still try and want to understand their sons, even if they disagree with their opinions and deeds.
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In conclusion, in his book Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton highlights the themes of racial inequity and relationships between sons and their fathers. To effectively highlight the themes, he uses disputes between characters, the depiction of their attitude towards each other, the development of conflicts between them, the setting, and specific language. The two themes are important because of their relevance at the time of the book’s publication in South Africa. With the help of these themes, the author vividly describes the life in this country at that time and the influence of racial inequality on the social life of the community and relations between its members.