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Cry, the Beloved Country
Oct 20, 2005 11:12 AM 2264 Views
(Updated Oct 20, 2005 11:14 AM)



Cry, the Beloved Country

Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country is all about South African struggles and apartheid. I read this novel as a part of syllabus in Commonwealth Literature (my Allied paper – under graduation). I did not like it, but it had too much in to think upon – This book was my second introduction to South Africa (the first being Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth). But this was on South Africans proper. It does not proceed like a novel, it is rather like a social commentary – but it has a proper plot and too many characters hard to remember (I remember only a few). This novel made me say – Life is beautiful – Humanitarian aspect is best explicit – this aspect transcends Nationalism.

To tell the story in simple terms, Stephen Kumalo, the Pastor of the village Ndotsheni, goes to Johannesburg in search of his son Absalom (also to rescue his sister Gertrude). Amidst this, he becomes a social activist. Very soon he learns that his son Absalom is a criminal and he is responsible for the murder of Arthur Jarvis – a White social reformer. Stephen meets James Jarvis- Arthur Jarvis’s father. Though he knows Stephen’s son has murdered his own son, he donates lavishly towards South African cause for social justice and upliftement. Stephen also soon finds that his sister has also gone bad (coming to the city) - she becomes a prostitute and has been to jail for liquor brewing – Paton seems to be suggesting that Urbanity corrupts men – the contrast between city and village is well brought out. Stephen returns to his village and ponders – why should these few white men help South Africa and wants his country emancipated.

The novel definitely looks at positive aspect – and it actually depicts South Africa in the beginning stages of Apartheid. There are many other incidents in the novel which are quite moving – (White) lawyer fighting for Absalom in the court (he fails and Absalom is hanged). I am reminded of some activist (of another country) being murdered in India– Our Country should cry as well. Alas I wish every one of us be like James Jarvis – Love our neighbors.

If you have nothing to do – Read this novel – it requires lot of patience. I had hard time reading the names of villages and following certain details in the novel- but definitely a must read. Sometimes in Life we do feel a vacuum – but there are always good people.

The title Cry, the Beloved Country is apt – some kill people who come forward to help, out of prejudice – South Africa has seen many such incidents and India too. (Think of Gandhi and Christ).

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Cry, The Beloved Country - Alan Paton