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Cry, The Beloved Country




The book Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton is a book about agitation and turmoil of both whites and blacks over the white segregation policy called apartheid. The book describes how understanding between whites and blacks can end mutual fear and aggresion, and bring reform and hope to a small community of Ndotcheni as well as to South Africa as a whole. The language of the book reflects the Bible; furthermore, several characters and episodes are reminiscent of stories from the New Testament and teachings of Christ. Thus, Alan Paton, as a reformer and the author of Cry, the Beloved Country, gives the people of South Africa a new, modern Bible, where he, like Christ, teaches to love thy brother as yourself in order to help whites and blacks overcome the fear and misunderstanding of each other.

 

The language of the book from the very beginning reveals its biblical nature. The great valley of Umzimkulu is still in darkness, but the light will come there. Ndotcheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there also. The style includes symbols such as light and darkness, short clauses connected by and or but, and repetition. This style is used to represent speech or thoughts translated from Zulu. Jesus Christ is symbolized by the figure of Arthur Jarvis. He is a white reformer who fights for rights of blacks. Like Christ, he is very altruistic and wants to pursue his aims at all costs. His friend, Harrison, says: Here [Arthur Jarvis] was, day to day, on a kind of mission. (173) Arthur Jarvis and his wife Mary agree that it's more important to speak the truth than to make money. (172) Arthur Jarvis is killed in his house by Absalom, a black youth who gets entangled in crime. Absalom only intends to rob Arthur Jarvis, and the homicide is unintentional. Absalom thinks that Arthur Jarvis is out and comes into the house with two friends. However, when Arthur Jarvis heard a noise, and came down to investigate (186). Startled and afraid, Absalom fires blindly. Absalom later says in court: Then a white man came into the passage… I was frightened. I fired the revolver. (194) Absalom's blind fear is symbolic of the fear, blindness, and misunderstanding between whites and blacks; these are the reasons of racial hatred. In his room, there are pictures of Christ crucified and Abraham Lincoln (176), the two men who fought for human love and compassion and were killed because of their beliefs. Arthur Jarvis can be identified with Jesus Christ. Jesus taught love thy neighbor as thyself. Roman priests didn't understand him, but they felt his power and were afraid of him. Even though Christ taught compassion, they claimed he would incite a riot and crucified him. Like Christ, Arthur Jarvis teaches compassion and love between neighbors - whites and blacks, separated by the policy of apartheid.

 

 The crucifixion of Jesus Christ leads to redemption, spiritual growth of many people and progress; likewise, the death of Arthur Jarvis brings reform and hope. Ironically, the tragedy brings together Stephen Kumalo, the father of a black murderer and Jarvis, the father of Arthur Jarvis, the white victim. High Place where Jarvis lives is symbolic of an elevated position of many whites. Before his son's death, Jarvis is on the hilltop, thinking in a distant, uninvolved way about the problems between whites and blacks, seeing just the white point of view. Indeed they talked about [the erosion of land] often, for when they visited one another and sat on the long cool verandahs drinking their tea, they must needs look out over the barren valleys and the bare hills that were stretched below them. Some of their labor was drawn from Ndotcheni, and they knew how year by year there was less food grown in these reserves. (162) Jarvis is not a bad person but is ignorant about the lives of blacks and the real issues that take place. After the death of his son Jarvis learns to view blacks as real people. Jarvis reads his son's papers and suddenly becomes concerned with the ideas expressed by his son and by Abraham Lincoln. Jarvis sat, deeply moved [after reading Arthur's last paper.] … [Then Jarvis] read [the Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln], and felt with a sudden lifting of the spirit that here was a secret unfolding, a track picked up again. (188) Later on, when Kumalo and Jarvis meet, Kumalo stumbles and almost faints because of the shame and guilt he feels. Jarvis doesn't yet know Kumalo is the father of the criminal, and doesn't understand Kumalo's anxiety.

 

However, Jarvis doesn't dismiss him as a dirty old parson (174) like before. Earlier Jarvis might barely have noticed expressions on the face of a Zulu, but now he has changed enough to recognize that this man does not mean to be rude. Jarvis knew this was not rudeness, for the old man was humble and well-mannered. (211) As a result of reading his son's writings, Jarvis learns about the real problems of South Africa. Most of the whites don't view blacks as real people and are unaware the problems blacks have to face. Therefore it is easy for whites to oppress blacks. In the end of the book, Jarvis plays the role of an angel coming down from above. When Jarvis returns to his High Place, he doesn't view the problems of the black community in Ndotcheni as being below him as earlier, but plays an active role in reform.



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