Cry, The Beloved Country: The Breakdown and Rebuilding of South African Society


“...what God has not done for South Africa
man must do.” pg. 25

In the book, Cry, the Beloved Country, written by Alan Paton, some major
conflicts follow the story from beginning to end. Two of these conflicts would
be as follows; first, the breakdown of the ever so old and respected tribe; and
second, the power of love and compassion and how that it can rebuild broken
relationships. This story gives the reader the perfect perspective in learning
about the injustices that have taken place in South Africa, and it gives us a
sense of the trials and hardships the blacks went through then. Cry, is a story
about a Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and how he sets out to bring his family back
together. While he sets out about doing this he realizes that his family is
completely in the shambles and his family has strayed from the church and tribal
traditions. Kumalo eventually learns to deal with this and while he is doing
this, he makes a friend, James Jarvis, that changes the way he has looked on
life.
The tribal breakdown starts to show in book I, with the land that the
tribe must use and how the people have used up the natural resources that used
to lay there. The whites pushed them out of where they used to reside where the
land is so good that it could be even referred to as “holy, being even as it
came from the Creator.” (pg. 3). In the rural areas such as this the decay
comes as a result of making the blacks live in confined areas where the land is
so bad it can\'t be farmed any more, and the taking of the strong males out of
these areas to go work in the mines were things are unsafe and people rarely
return. Because of this, the people leave the tribe to go on the roads to
travel to Johannesburg, because “All roads lead to Johannesburg.” (pg. 10).
As Kumalo arrives in Johannesburg he finally realizes what a problem he
has stepped into. He realizes that nobody in his family, neither brothers,
sisters, sons and daughters, even cousins, have any moral ties with each other
anymore. He sees his brother get caught up in worldly beliefs, such as: fame,
money, power, greed and lying. He also sees his sister and his son living in a
horrible life of crime and sin. Kumalo even starts to lose hope for his son, he
states that “I can do nothing here, let us go.” (pg. 68).
The cause of this degradation in the city is basically caused by a major
lack of jobs for the citizens and, the laws of separation toward blacks that
cause them to fight for housing and other basic necessities that whites receive
all to easy. The blacks constantly “have no place to go.” (pg. 53) for housing,
so this also compounds the problem. Another factor that adds to this problem is
fear. This fear is in both the blacks and the whites. It unfortunately plays a
major roll in most of the negative events that occur in South Africa. An
example of this would be the white fear for black crime and violence, black fear
for police retaliation to strikes or protests. As with Kumalo he also fears
much, which almost automatically sets off other peoples fears. Kumalo is afraid
to see his son in prison; Absalom fears his dad\'s reaction; Gertrude fears
rejection and the shame she caused; John fears the police and prison; etc., etc.
“Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.” (pg. 74). If
all of this degradation were to be added up there would definitely be reason for
the country to weep at its citizens problems.
As a result of this breakdown there is some positive things to be gained
from it, such as the rebuilding of relationships through compassion toward
others. Stephen Kumalo realizes that there still is love between himself and
his brother. He knows this because he shares some of the same views that his
brother does. John said that the only hope that he sees is for the blacks and
whites to work together in love for the good of the country. The people of
Johanasburg still have some religious ties they have not yet abandoned because
they still ask “God to have mercy upon us.” (pg. 58). There is also still
optimism that also remains, even in