Injustices Exposed in Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country


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Cry the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, is the story of the two fictional characters, Stephen Kumalo and James Jarvis, who lose their sons in South Africa in 1948. In his story, Alan Paton used the George Hegel's Dialect of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, in order to expose social injustices in a microcosm of South Africa that correlate to the macrocosm of the issues faced by the entire country and what must be done to fix these injustices. Paton subdivided his story into three books. The first of these books, depicts the Journey of Stephen Kumalo, to try and restore his family, is a cry against injustice. The second book focused mainly on James Jarvis’s plight to understand his deceased son, depicts the yearning for justice. While the final book displays the restoration and repair of the injustices derived from the yearning for justice.

The society of the small urban town called Ndotsheni, from which both Stephan and Author come, is based largely on the native African tribal system. This town also suffers from a drought that drives away the young men to work in the mines of Johannesburg. Johannesburg directly contradicts Ndotsheni with no tribal system and the brake down of the moral fibers of its people. Yet in Johannesburg there is also hope for the future and ideas that help lead to the restoration of Ndotsheni. During the time the story is set in Johannesburg the reader is introduced to two exceptionally different characters. The first is John Kumalo, the brother of Stephen Kumalo. He is a corrupt politician with the voice of a “lion,” but a week hart, who spoke about the injustices of the whites to the blacks and their need to revolt. The other an enlightened priest, Msimangu, who prayed for loving and restoration through coming to amends. Their influences help to shape Kumalo into a new person. Furthermore, throughout his story Paton stresses the idea of irresponsibility contradicted by individual responsibility. Eventually the idea of unified responsibility is shown to be the only manor by which South Africa can be saved.

The partied society in place when Paton wrote Cry the Beloved Country was one of extreme racial inequality and injustice. Paton wrote the first book of his story as a protest to this injustice. This book begins with the description of Ndotsheni and the land that surrounds it.

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The author describes this land as having grass that is, “rich and matted,” and the hills of the panorama “are grass covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.” Yet this is not the land that belongs to the natives for that land was the valley below where, “the hills …change their nature. For they grow red and bare…” Hear, “the young men and the girls are away. The soil can not keep them any more.” This is a cry against the injustice of the situation faced by the natives in the society for they must live on the pore soil where they are disadvantaged do to there place of berth and to society into which they were borne. The contrast of the beautiful land around Ndotsheni and the land of the valley stresses the pore situation of the natives of Ndotsheni as well as their plight of needing to live in this land while there is the beautiful land that surrounds them belongs to the white people of South Africa. The pore soil of Ndotsheni causes the young move away and their tribal system is destroyed. Paton’s revealing of the destruction of the tribe is a further cry against the injustice of South Africa. Through the plight of Stephen Kumalo and his attempts to restore his tribe through bringing back his family from Johannesburg. In Johannesburg Stephen lost his sister to a life of sinfulness and his son who became a murderer. The loss of both was do the loss of a moral structure that was once provided by the tribal system. Msimangu, who helps Stephen in Johannesburg, tells him of the reason for this degradation of the moral fibers is because, “It suited the white man to break the tribe…But it has not suited him to build something in place of what is broken(56).” This is Paton’s direct message to his audience protesting the injustice that the weight man came in and destroyed the thing that had kept the people to a moral code. Yet after these aliens had done so they did not create justice and implement another system to replace what they had destroyed.

The antithesis to the idea of the cry against injustice as in seen in the first book is that of the yearning for justice of the second book. This idea is first expressed in the introduction of this part of the story. The introduction closely mirrors that of the first, in fact copying it verbatim for the first paragraph. Yet the narration of this introduction book describes James Jarvis’s farm on the hill opposed to the valley of Ndotsheni. Jarvis looks down and contemplates the, “problem almost beyond solution(163).” That of people who, “were ignorant, and knew nothing about farming methods(162),” and how such a problem should be solved. This is a strong yearning for justice that opposes the cry against injustice of the first book. He does not just recognize the injustices, but also contemplates what can be done to find justice. He sees both sides of the injustice, not only does he know that the natives suffer, but also that to give them more land there is the possibility that “the country would turn into a desert(163).” Shortly after contemplating the fait of the natives Jarvis’s thoughts go to his son who had left High Place to Johannesburg. Shortly thereafter Jarvis learns that his son had been murdered in Johannesburg. This braking reflects the braking of the tribe that afflicts the natives of South Africa but when Jarvis goes to Johannesburg he discovers that his son had been working to fix this issue that brought about his murder.


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