A View On South Africa: Continuous and Unequal Lives in Strewn Lands
Cry, The Beloved Country is one of the most known novels about South Africa and its reality. It is written by Alan Paton and published in 1948. We can talk about the most important elements in our novel, which deals with the relationship between black people and white people in critical contexts. Some of these are the change of class, religion, family structure, crime, power, and social dynamics. Although the novel is directly associated with racism, the consequences of class problems and social turmoil caused by relationships should be discussed. We can clearly observe that there is a perception of beauty moving in the opposite direction with the theme of fear. We see that the dominance of fear over individuals often directs them to be quiet. We also have to address the orientation of individuals who lack a value system. Issues such as industrialization, education problem, housing, difference in income levels and nature destruction will be included in our analysis. After these analyses, we will have an assessment of the liberal perspective’s view of racism and the source of the problem.
Interpretation of The Book
Our novel is based in a geography where the unsustainable relations experienced as a result of industrialization and the destruction of nature. Reverend Kumalo, his sister and son, who went to Johannesburg and never heard from them again, receives a letter one day. It is from a minister in Johannesburg named Msimangu, who reports that Gertrude(his sister) is ill so Kumalo should go to the Sophiatown, Johannesburg. Stephan Kumalo, together with his wife, saved up money for his son’s education. But Absalom went to a place of no return. The idea that his son will never come back upsets Kumalo, but he knows he will need this money in Johannesburg. When he goes after his sister and son in Johannesburg, he has to take this money with him. Here we can see the tragedies of the novel and the fact that geography is sometimes prevented from the collective movement of individuals. We observe a society where the tribe was broken and there is no value system. Kumalo, like many black people, has accepted this situation. There’s an exodus from the country to the city because of poverty. The income level needs to be raised, and young people prefer immigration. This migration process causes the problem of not adapting. Crime rates are on the rise. Here we see the profound change of social dynamics in society in the deep-rooted process. The social transformation causes many unstable relationships. Black people who work on the white man’s farms live in the city in poor places and in poor conditions. And we see white people trying to find gold in the mines, employing black people as workers. Here we can say that it is the whites who determine labor exploitation and the roles. Stephan Kumalo depicts the turmoil of the city as he arrived in Johannesburg. The impression that population and mobility create in Kumalo brings us to the idea that Johannesburg is as much a swamp as it is a dream. It’s noticeable what the white man’s doings. The inequality of earnings and the state of children lacking education is quite remarkable. As Msimangu mentions in novel, whites give blacks almost nothing: “They give us too little; they give us almost nothing” (Msimangu, p. 26). The problems we consider from Stephan Kumalo’s conservative point of view and the pacifizing of the church require discussion of the degree to which religion is adaptable to actions on social issues. Rather than changing the order and radically transforming, we encounter a symbol of fear and refuge in God. The liberal perspective we will address later is not enough to produce solutions.
Kumalo finds his sister through his friend Msimangu and learns that she lives in different conditions. They then bring her to Mrs. Lithebe’s house, pray together, and a new life begins for Gertrude with her child. Now it’s time to find Absalom. Stephan Kumalo and Msimangu are back on their way. They learn that Absalom lives in one of the worst places in Johannesburg. Meanwhile, on the way, they encounter a black act caused by bus prices. If we need to open a break here, we have to say that any action mentioned in the book is not complete decency and has no continuity. This may come to us as a peaceful solution, the solution proposed is in hope, understanding, and love. In this respect, our book does not provide a sufficient change of order. So there is no solution when we analyze all of the components of the book. But still Stephan Kumalo has a hope. Msimangu says some locals welcome this religion from Europe, thinking that a white man had “taken his father out of the dark” by converting him to Christianity. Christianity, on the other hand, is partly responsible for the destruction of the tribal structure in South Africa. This binary situation requires a re-interpretation of Christianity and church symbols through social dynamics and class relations in the book. Being a good Christian and having a colonial look can be interpreted in many ways(in the context of book). Another point is the view of Stephan Kumalo’s brother John Kumalo for his attitude to unequalness. He is aware of classification, he is aware of labor exploitation, and he is very strong in rhetoric. He’s an orator. What is important here is that John Kumalo, despite all his knowledge, did not act with his right because of his profit ambition. There’s always a fear of white people either if the blacks rise up. But we see that a person with individual ambition, like John Kumalo, has no problem eliminating inequality. The novel is a sublime text. There is a narrative based on deep emotions. Some things are not seen between the lines, but they are felt. The traces of fear that we experience in the text are sublime itself. As a result of his great efforts, Kumalo has censed to correctional school and learns that his son was there some time ago. His son’s development is for the better, it becomes a hope for Stephan Kumalo. They later learn that Absalom has a pregnant girlfriend. Shortly afterwards, Arthur Jarvis is heard to have been killed. He is a man who’s struggling to make problems go away and for their black and white relationships to improve. Jarvis wants to help black Africans regain their rights. We can reach a sad conclusion that his killers are motivated at least in part by the desperation created by the inequities of South African society. Although Jarvis fights these inequities, he murdered accidently by Absalom Kumalo. If we need to come to an assessment of crime and society in particular, the social issues that trigger increased crime rates and the inability to adapt that individuals face are important. Crime is the reflection of many factors on individuals and sometimes causes collective actions and brings deep problems to light. What needs to be discussed here are the factors that push young people to crime and the social alienation caused by the social class. It is a portrait of society in its entirety that is the target and performs the action, and it is worth analyzing. Alan Paton’s focus on love and hope for such serious crimes and power relations that have a lasting impact on society can be criticized.
A few parts of the book in which white people are tried to be sympathetic are made by wanting to put white dominance in hierarchical relations on the background despite all the ruins. Whereas it’s the whites who make and rule the rules. Because we’re used to this hierarchical relationship and some parts of the book soften the issues, there are points that we overlook. Especially white people’ fear of what happens if blacks determine the political regime is quite pronounced. Because fear exists for both sides. But power and ability are again attributed to white people. That’s a big problem. Our author is white, but he knows the land he wrote about and lived there. Since he has many experiences, we can see his accumulation, but it is unrealistic for him to reconcile the social integration process with goodness. Liberal vision is visible in all part of the book and this situation is handled as insufficient. Because there are many questions about how to achieve equality.
Stephan Kumalo is devastated to hear that his son committed this murder, this dilemma he had and the idea that he could not take care of his family and values, pushed him into incompething. The fact that Arthur Jarvis is no ordinary person and that he is killed by a black man at the end of his struggle makes visible the facts of society’s corruption. Absalom Kumalo receives the death penalty. A gun he pulls his tee with fear causes his death. This is a murder associated with the theme of fear to show how corrupt the geography we are talking about. Mr. Jarvis is very saddened by the death of his son Arthur Jarvis. He and Mrs Jarvis come to Johannesburg. They are very sad that Arthur Jarvis, a man who has dedicated his life to the rights of black people, was killed in this way. When Mr. Jarvis read his son’s writings, he wants to do something himself over time as long as his struggle is heeded. One day they meet Reverend Kumalo, and it’s quite impressive. Stephan Kumalo, who was faithful to Christian teaching on the one hand, and Mr, Jarvis, the father of Arthur Jarvis, who was murdered by his son. This is a reflection of many contradictions and destructions. Mr Jarvis’ optimistic view after such a murder is unrealistic as a result of difficult relationships. In some dialogues and when we look at the overall book, we see a colonial backdrop. Order does not change, the problems that exist are covered from an optimistic point of view. Stephan Kumalo then takes his son’s girlfriend and unborn grandson to Natal. It is disappointing for Stephan Kumalo that Gertrude wants to stay in Johannesburg and Absalom receives the death penalty. It shows us what the current order has led to. Arthur’s son stays with his grandfather. They meet Kumalo. The child wants to drink milk, but there is no milk. He learns that children die because there is no milk. A worker from Jarvis’ farm then scatters milk to young children in Ndotsheni. Then James Jarvis donated to build a dam to better irrigate the soil. He also keeps an agricultural specialist to teach farmers to protect the land. It’s about continuing his son’s struggle. What we can criticize here is not that James Jarvis is a good person, but that social change (although not deep-rooted) takes place through whites. Kumalo becomes pacifized here. When human relations improve, will the problem of education, crime rates, property rights, racism problem, housing be solved? Here is the main question. We don’t see a better future. Our book ends when Absalom is executed, when Reverend Kumalo alone prays and thinks on a hill.
After all the beauties and fears, we are left with a few problems that are not easy to solve in our novel, which is finished by pointing to a hopeful order. Racism and class problem do not disappear with a workaround. The traces of social transformation have different consequences for many individuals, as we observe in our book. Tensions between rural and urban society do not result in regional solutions. At this point, our book has a looking between the theme of hope and reality. It gives us an idea that an important issue such as migration should be dealt with in the South African context and processed the issue of racism. Finally, we can say that the developing and changing relationships between individuals do not change in a short time in terms of the reality of society. Social interaction and strong relationships can give hope to individuals, but it is necessary to act and be active in the process of destroying large-scale problems such as racism, discrimination, class.
- Andrew Foley, “Considered as a Social Record”: A Reassessment of Cry, the Beloved Country
- Hermann Wittenberg, Alan Paton’s Sublime: Race, Landscape and the Transcendence of the Liberal Imagination
- Alvarez- Pereyre, The Social Record in Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country
- Stephan Watson, Cry, the Beloved Country and the Failure of Liberal Vision