Authors often use symbolism to describe their characters more in depth. An example of symbolism in the novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, is the relation of the character James Jarvis to a broken mirror and a half-filled glass. A broken mirror resembles Jarvis’s journey and how it reflects to that of Kumalo’s, and also how his life and ideas were shattered by the death of his son. A glass half-filled could represent many characteristics about Jarvis, including his original ignorance and his new look on life after the death of his family.
The mirror is James Jarvis and the reflection is Kumalo’s physical and emotional journey. In the novel, both of the men lose their children, with the exception that Absolom Kumalo had a chance to live and only died because he killed Jarvis’s son. Their death brings their fathers on an emotional journey that drives the novel. The mirror is broken because his whole idea about life and South Africa was shattered from his son’s death. When his son is shot and killed, James gets to finally know him and his values. The novel reads, “Jarvis filled his pipe slowly, and listened to the tale of his son, to this tale of a stranger” (Paton 172). He reads his sons speeches and understands his country’s segregation, relieving him of his ignorance.
A glass half-full represents all aspects of James Jarvis’s life and personality. The full part of the glass represents his newfound generosity towards the South African native population. When Jarvis and Kumalo were talking at the church, the novel says “…Kumalo told him about the milk, and the new dam that was to be built, and the young demonstrator” (Paton 296). The empty half represents his original ignorance to his son and the country before the deaths of his wife and son.
James Jarvis was a dynamic character who changed throughout the novel. Alan Paton could have also used countless other symbols, though the chosen two involved more aspects of Jarvis,...