– “Cry, The Beloved Country” Essay, Research Paper
Racial Morals in,
“Cry, The Beloved Country”
Discrimination against people who are different can be identify in every country around the world. People of every sex, color, religion, and in this case, ethnicity are tormented. In the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s apartheid was an emanate injustice throughout the land of South Africa. Apartheid was the government’s rigid policy racial segregation between white Europeans and black natives. The official goal of apartheid was to establish laws that would isolate these groups in most activities, especially in education, employment, housing, and politics. The word apartheid means apartness in Afrikaans, one of South Africa’s official languages. This inequity caused great conflict between the races. This conflict can be seen through the experiences of Steven Kumalo and James Jarvis, the main characters in the contemporary novel, on which, this paper is written. Both Steven and James have their own different views of apartheid. The character’s views of racial segregation in the novel, “Cry, The Beloved Country,” by Alan Paton, are reciprocated, resulting in new views of the black and white seclusion.
Steven Kumalo struggled with both public and private feelings toward the whites who imposed the apartheid upon his people. Steven Kumalo is an old, God-fearing, Zulu pastor from the rural valley of Umzimkulu in the countryside of South Africa (Brutus 361). He is beaconed to the large and over-populated city of Johannesburg to help his ailing sister. It is in the big city that he first publicly and privately realizes his feelings of apartheid. “He sees the condition of the black majority in white-ruled South Africa”(Claiborne 311). Kumalo sees how the natives are not allowed to enter “white only” restaurants, buses, schools, and even churches. His private reaction to this injustice is disbelief. How could the minority have the right to ban the majority, if anything, he believes it should be vise-versa. Yet, publicly Steven displays himself as unaffected, and shows that he is optimistic that the injustice will be overcome and both whites and natives will live together in harmony. “Kumalo prospects nonviolent change in South Africa”(Mitgang 311). When he finds his sister, she has become a prostitute because she is unable to support herself and her son. Obviously this resulted from the apartheid, to overcome it, Steven easily influences her to commit to change her evil ways, nonviolently. “One day in Johannesburg and already the tribe was being rebuilt, the house and the soul restored”(Paton 63). Still there was much more to be accomplished because there are thousands of natives in the same situation as his sister. In a conversation with Theophilus Msimango, a fellow pastor, Steven discusses his thoughts on how he believes the natives can overcome the apartheid.
Some of us think when we have power, we shall revenge ourselves on the white man who has had power, and because our desire is corrupt, we are corrupted, and the power has no heart in it. But there is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love. Because when man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power. I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it, I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating (Paton 70-71).
Steven still sustains his optimism, but he cannot help but think that the racial change will be difficult.
James Jarvis has his own public and private feelings toward the black natives, but his feelings are much more passive than Kumalo’s toward apartheid. Jarvis also lives in the Umzimkulu valley, where he lives with his wife and owns a farm. His only connection to the “city life” is his son, Arthur, who lives in Johannesburg and sends letters to his parents periodically. In his letters Arthur informs his father of his involvement in the black community. Arthur is well known for speaking out against apartheid, and for opening a Boy’s Club for young natives to help better their lives. “It had been his wish that his son, the only child that had been born to them, would taken it after him, but his life was his own, and no other man had the right to put his hands on it”(Paton 163-4). Jarvis does not understand why his son chooses to help the natives, but he does not question it because it is his own life. Jarvis holds a very narrow minded view toward the natives. “White men defend interests of the white. Black men defend the interests of blacks”(Jamba 313). This statement is most definitely not true, it just provides another example of what kind of attitude is preventing desegregation. James’ only relation to native people is through his farm. “And there was another system whereby a native could get land from the farmer, providing that he and his family gave so much labor each year to the white farmer”(Paton 163). So, in fact, Jarvis really looks at natives as servants living off his land, to whom he owes nothing, especially respect. “I’m not a nigger-hater, I try to give’em a square deal. But the natives as a whole are getting out of hand”(Paton 183). Jarvis ignorantly directs this statement toward the natives who are starting to stand up against apartheid. Little did Steven and James know that a single action would change both of their views forever.
Steven’s racial views are taken through a very rough time of transition. Another way Steven tried to rebuild the “tribe” was by finding his son, Absalom, from whom he had not heard from in several months. When Kumalo did find his son, in jail, his transition began. “And yet again, and the fear smote him as griev-ously as ever, that he should kill a man, a white man”(Paton 119)! Not only the fact that his son shot a man made him upset, but the fact that the man was white infuriated him because it did not help the cause of trying to rebuild the tribe. “The dead man was well known for his interest in social problems, and for his efforts for the welfare of the non-European section of the community”(Paton 104). Ironically, the man murdered turned out to be Arthur Jarvis, he had dedicated his life to helping the natives, and his life was ended by a native, this very fact created great controversy (Tucker 395). “It is strange how we move forward in some things, and stand still in others, and go backward in yet others”(Paton 95). Arthur’s death by a native is a prime example of how things to go backward for the natives, because just as they were starting to move forward, this created another racial barrier. At this point Kumalo starts to loose his faith, especially after his son is sentenced to death for the murder. “There are times, no doubt, when God seems no more about the world”(Paton 105). Steven feels that God has turned his back on his cause and is no longer there to help guide him. “Sometimes it seems that I have no more courage”(Paton 96). Kumalo almost gives up the cause because, now, there is no point in continuing, because it seems the barriers are too great.
Jarvis’ feelings are also sent through a transitional phase caused by the death of his son. The premature death of his son provokes many ideas in James’ head. “Who knows for what we live, and struggle, and die”(Paton 94)? James, too, finds it ironic that his son devoted his life to a cause, and the cause seemingly took his life. Not only does his son’s death muster hatred inside him toward natives but also fear. “, we do not know. We shall live from day to day, and put more locks on the doors, and get a fine fierce dog, and hold on to our handbags more tenaciously”(Paton 110); because the crime was committed by a native, it is thought, by the whites, that now native crime will increase. “we’re scared stiff at the moment in Johannesburg. Of crime? Yes, of native crime”(Paton 173). This creates an even thicker “force field” of prejudice against the natives. At his son’s funeral James is confronted eye to eye with his “enemy”. “The black people- yes, the black people also- it was the first time he had ever shaken hands with black people”(Paton 182). Yet another ironic moment, black people come to pay their respects to Arthur, whom they know fought for their equality, and James is forced to realize this fact., that black people are also mourning the loss of great man. Now Jarvis’ new public feeling start to emerge. What really changes his private feelings toward natives is when he finds an unfinished paper started by his son titled, “The Truth About Native Crime.”
Our natives today produce criminals and prostitutes and drunkards, not because it is their nature to do so, but because their simple system of order and tradition and convention has been destroyed. It was destroyed by the impact of our own civilization. Our civili-zation has therefore an inescapable duty to set up another system of order and tradition and convention (Paton 179).
His son, after his death, has brought up new ideas that James had never thought about before. These ideas cause James’ private feelings to change
Somehow, through his pain, Steven does not give up hope in the idea of abolishing apartheid, this is what grants Kumalo his new understanding of the racial problem. “For fear impoverishes always, while sorrow may enrich”(Paton 140). This quote is perhaps the most meaningful in Kumalo’s development of new feelings, it explains that if he is not afraid and keeps struggling to rebuild the broken tribe, and mourns the horrible lose of his son he can gain a new understanding of the apartheid that he did not have in the beginning. “the father loses his faith and ultimately finds it again”(Mitgang 311). Through his determination to make a difference, Kumalo gained his faith back after his rough time of mourning for his son. “a story steeped in sadness and grief but radiant with hope and compassion”(Mitgang 311). The future holds great hope for Kumalo and all other natives for desegregation as along as they do not lose their faith, as Kumalo almost did, and as long as they continue to strive for equality.
Jarvis also gained a new availing public and private views toward the native people. After he read his son’s manuscript, he realized that perhaps if the whites helped the blacks they could live together in harmony after all. “Whites didn’t think they could understand blacks”(Jamba 313). His son granted him an understanding of why the natives act the way they do, because they had no other choice. James’ enlightenment causes him to want to help the natives, comparable to what his son did, by providing food for the poor, and building a new church for Kumalo and the people of the Umzimkulu valley. “Umfundisi: I thank you for your message of sympathy,”(Paton 295). This letter in return to Kumalo’s from Jarvis shows Jarvis is not a narrow minded man anymore, but was able to forgive Kumalo, and in turn forgive Kumalo’s son for the murder. “Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end”(Paton 105). Nevertheless, much work was needed to be done by all people in South Africa to help rebuild the broken tribe so that everyone can live in harmony together.
In conclusion, the characters initial racial feelings go through a transitional phase, the end result being optimistic for the future of South Africa. Racial injustice is still seen everywhere across the globe, and will probably remain for eternity. The only thing anyone can do to help break down racial barriers is to make one little change in the way they look at someone who is different. Because after all, every little bit helps, and a great deal of little bits creates a great bit. If there was a great bit, the world would be a better place for anyone of any ethnicity, religion, color, or sex.