1 minute read

Cry, the Beloved Country

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: (Rupert) John Cornford Biography to Cwmaman (pr. Cŏomăˈman) Glamorgan

A. Paton's best-known and most successful novel—subtitled ‘A story of comfort in desolation’—published in 1948. Its first two parts each begins with the identical lyrical sentences that are characteristic of Paton's emotional prose: ‘There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills …’ In the first section, a humble old African priest, Stephen Kumalo, sets out from his home in Natal for Johannesburg—‘All roads lead to Johannesburg’—to search for his sister Gertrude and his son Absalom, from whom he has not heard for some time. He discovers that his sister has turned to prostitution and his son, having fallen into bad company, faces the death sentence for murder. Absalom's victim, ironically, is a ‘good’ white man, Arthur Jarvis, who was dedicated to helping the African people and working to change the apartheid system. The second part of the novel focus on Jarvis's father, a landowner in the priest's own village, who reads through his son's papers in an attempt to understand his liberal ideas. Absalom at his trial admits that he killed out of fear, and is condemned to hang. Kumalo returns to Natal with Gertrude's son and Absalom's pregnant wife. In the last section of the novel, each father separately coming to terms with his personal loss, there is a reconciliation between Jarvis senior and Kumalo, and in Jarvis's determination to help the poor black community Paton advances the optimistic view that ‘fear could not be cast out, but by love’, seeing tolerance and Christian charity as the solution to South Africa's racial situation.

Additional topics