Summer Assignment Topic A - Cry, the Beloved Country
Alan Paton’s work is significant in that it highlights and analyzes, from both white and black perspective, the racial boundary and its effect on society as a whole. This boundary, as Paton emphasizes, has a diverse affect on different groups of people, as well as individuals. The way that those individuals react, in Paton’s book, defines whether or not those individuals are viewed as the enemy or the victim. While their initial reactions may be different, their final reactions are the same; that is, they find spiritual reassessment and moral reconciliation.
Stephan Kumalo is often displayed as the protagonist of the book, even though Paton emphasizes racial differences by using the points of view of many different individuals. Throughout his journey to find his son, Absalom, Kumalo is seemingly fighting an inner battle. Kumalo can be seen slowly diminishing, mentally and emotionally, as the outcome keeps taking turns for the worse. The first time where Kumalo weakens, is when he receives the letter from Msimangu concerning his sister, Gertrude. As he ventures to Johannesburg, however, the situation slowly deteriorates, Kumalo transforms from respected leader to a “frail old man”. It seems as if Kumalo will deteriorate towards death, as foreshadowed by his final meeting with his son, but Paton eloquently reveals, that even though Kumalo is angry and blames others for his son’s death, his concern for the larger issue, that is the relationship of blacks and whites, spares him and leads to his spiritual reconciliation that is central to the themes of the story. Even though Kumalo and his son have been wronged, their understanding of the injustice and acceptance and resolution of their own sins spare them suffering, in life and death.
It is not until about halfway through the book that the reader learns of James Jarvis, the father of the man Absalom has...
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