Cry, the Beloved Country
Length: 674 words (1.9 double-spaced pages)
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Cry, the Beloved Country
In Cry, the Beloved Country, the author, Alan Paton used two main characters to present both the whites and Africans' point of view. James Jarvis, Paton's European characters experienced a subtle but yet also impacting transition; His indifference towards the evolving problems of the society later surprisingly transformed into the courage to take actions in solving these problems. Through his journey in Johannesburg, trying to understand his son's "liberal" view and witnessing a downfall of an African girl, Jarvis found out that his apathy only worsened the predicaments faced by his country; For he could not be a spectator after his son's death, Jarvis decided to "...about doing whatever good is within his power." However, Jarvis discovered that "such thing [helping Africans in anywhere he could] is not lightly done", but required boldness and determination to fulfill these goals.
As the book II of Cry, the Beloved Country unfolded, Paton described Jarvis as a white British farmer looking down at the valley from his "high place", an narrow minded person who only saw things from his point of view, "... if they [Africans] got more land, and if by some chance they could make a living off from it, who would work on the white man's farm?". In his stay at Johannesburg, Jarvis learned that his recent murdered son, Arthur Jarvis who fought and spoke about the very problems of the society that his father ignores and avoids. "Yes, he [Arthur Jarvis] was always speaking here and there ... Native crime, and more native schools, and he kicked up a hell of a dust in the papers about the conditions at the noneuropean hospital.". Devastated by the death of his deceased son and confused by "this boy of his who had gone journeying in strange water", Jarvis found himself beginning to doubt his principles and moral. "I didn't know it would ever be so important to understand him [Arthur Jarvis]" Indeed, Jarvis found that indifference is slowly degenerating the society around him, "...she went to the bad and started to brew liquor ...she was arrested and sent to jail... I do not know... And I do not care." Later, as Jarvis comes upon an essay written by his son, "From them [James and Mary Jarvis] I [Arthur Jarvis] learned all that a child should learn of honor and charity and generosity.
But of South Africa, I learned nothing at all." Jarvis realizes that his indifference blocks him outside of the world, and like an innocent little boy, he, too knows nothing of the genuine South Africa; He made a discovery that him, like many others unaware of the crisis were the ones that contributed to the "social paralysis" of the society.
In a country where fear and hate loomed over the atmosphere everywhere, it takes courage and determination for a person to make a difference. "But you are carrying passengers on a bus route, said the officer. Then take me to court, said the white man." After he returns to Ndshenti from Johannesburg, Jarvis discovered that courage has become a necessity in his bid to rebuild the "broken tribe". "They say he [Jarvis] is going queer. From what I've heard, he soon won't have any money left" There was not a time when the courage in Jarvis was no longer needed or enough to suffice. For even after sending an agriculture instruction, offering to build a new church and the plan of construction of a dam for the village, Jarvis still found himself, time to time, lacking the courage to follow what his son had left behind to finish. "...Jarvis sat embarrassed on his horse. Indeed he might have come down from it, but such a thing is not lightly done."
Through Jarvis, Paton sends a message to his readers; Indifference makes for a retroactive society, realizing the problem only after it's too late. Instead, the courage in doing not the expedient but what is right changes the society in a way Jarvis has done in his community.