Cry, the Beloved Country

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Cry, the Tribal Breakdown!

The historical fiction, Cry, the Beloved Country, is a social protest, in the form of a microcosm, against the structures of the society in South Africa that later give rise to apartheid. Alan Paton’s characters Msimangu and John Kumalo have conflicting opinions about what the main problem is plaguing the native population of South Africa. But which man has the right idea? Msimangu believes that the dilemma is that the white aristocrats have "broken the tribe" and "it has not suited them to build something in the place of what is broken". In other words he is saying that nothing has been built to replace the broken moral and social framework that the tribal units provided. On the other hand, John Kumalo thinks the main trouble is the economic inequality between the whites and blacks. John seems to believe that black people simply need more money and power to be free and a revolution is the necessary action to take, even if he will not admit it openly because of fear of being arrested.

Arthur Jarvis, a man who is murdered in this book, reaches exactly the same conclusion as Msimangu. Arthur writes in one of his manuscripts, "The old tribal system was . . . a moral system. Our natives today produce criminals and prostitutes and drunkards not because it is their nature to do so, but because their simple system of order and tradition and convention has been destroyed. It was destroyed by the impact of our own civilization. Our civilization has therefore an inescapable duty to set up another system of order and tradition and convention" (Chapter 20). The tragedy that afflicted the country was the exploitation of blacks by whites and the consequent loss of an entire way of life. The result of this social decadence is seen in the lives of Absalom and Gertrude Kumalo. Both individuals, like so many others, were quickly swept up by the immorality of Johannesburg and both paid the price for it.

Since the whites had taken the most...
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