Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, is the timeless novel about South Africa in the 1940s. As powerful white men use the land for their own benefit, the tribal system of the African natives is broken down and replaced by poverty, homelessness, fear, and violence. A black priest, Stephen Kumalo, ventures to the great city of Johannesburg in search of his lost sister and son. His journey demonstrates the unhealthy lifestyle and mutinous atmosphere of the black people; yet he is the beholder of forgiveness, love, hope, and the restoration of a country overwhelmed with problems.
The blacks in big cities, such as Johannesburg, are fearful of white men because they have all the power. They own the mines and factories, and make and carry out the laws. When fear is so deeply ingrained in a society, it can cause people to strike out in violence, or to submit and be voiceless to unjust authority. Have no doubt it is fear in her eyes. I have nothing to tell, she said. You have nothing to tell because you are afraid. (Pg. 46-47) The woman, Mrs. Mkize, is one of the many blacks who are terrified by the whites.
She doesnt want the police to come to her house, and does not know if she can trust Msimangu and Kumalo. This constant apprehension causes people to act in ways that they normally would not. It is this same panic that caused Absolom Kumalo to shoot Arthur Jarvis. Absolom, being a criminal, had reason to fear authority figures; and because Arthur was white, Absolom automatically associated him with supremacy and command. I told them I was frightened when the white man came. So I shot him. I did not mean to kill him. (Pg. )
When so many white people are being killed by blacks, it can only increase the fear felt by both races: blacks because they do not wish to procure any trouble, and whites because they do not want to be the next victim. By not sacrificing power, the whites are bringing this fear upon themselves. And our lives will shrink, but they shall be the lives of superior beings; and we shall live with fear, but at least it will not be a fear of the unknown. (Pg. 79) The question is: how long can this unstable and superficial lifestyle endure before the dawn of a new equity?
Future generations will have to deal with these issues which are left unsolved by a power hungry nation. And if problems are left unsettled for too long, hatred may establish a permanent residence in South Africa. Msimangu, who has anticipated future events, confesses to Kumalo what he fears most deeply: that one day when they [white people] are turned to loving, they will find we [black people] are turned to hating(Pg. 40) Msimangu understands that certain people are corrupted by power, or only want power to take the power away from other people.
With no genuine aspirations, the power is corrupt and no one will benefit. The situation is slightly ironic because the two men are on their way to hear John Kumalo speak. John has no sincerity in his political work, but enjoys the command and importance he gains as an influential speaker. His selfishness is revealed when he deserts his distressed nephew: There is no proof that my son or this other young man was there at all John Kumalo smiles at that. Who will believe your son? (Pg. 101) Power in the hands of a man with such twisted morals and lacking loyalty cannot be beneficial.
In contrast, James Jarvis is a powerful man willing to sacrifice his time and money to restore Ndosheni. His actions were not brought about by self-seeking incentives. But there is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power. (Pg. 39) This illustrates the means by which South Africa can renew itself. When people work together for a common and genuine goal, anything is possible. In the midst of Kumalos distress, he encounters hope and forgiveness through Jarvis.
Pain and suffering, they are a secret. Kindness and love, they are a secret. But I have learned that kindness and love can pay for pain and suffering. (Pg. 226) At times in the novel, Kumalo questions the purpose of living in such a foreboding environment, but when he returns to Ndosheni, he has purpose and love all around him. Returning to Ndosheni, Kumalo can focus on the future, and not dwell on his unpleasant past. This is exactly the frame of mind in which Jarvis so chivalrously aids the restoration of Ndosheni.
There are many emotions Jarvis could have choosen to pursue when he discovered the connection Kumalo had with Arthur: revenge, hatred, despair. But Jarvis chose to forgive and move on. Because there was such unnecessary hatred in South Africa, a young woman, Amy Beihl, was murdered. Ironically, she was working for the rights of the black people by whom she was arbitrarily killed. This relates directly to Cry, the Beloved Country, because Arthur Jarvis was killed much in the same way.
The character of Msimangu was correct when he predicted that in the future his people would be too full of hate to allow changes to occur in South Africa. Like Jarvis, the people of South Africa need to forgive each other for actions taken in the past. No one benefits from blind hatred; it only brings about fear. If no one stops the cycle of vengeance, South Africa may never be the great country for which it has such potential. Many problems need to be fixed, but, with enough love and kindness, there may be hope for the people of South Africa.