Cry the Beloved Country
Alan Paton
Contributed by Cinderella Domino
Chapter 12
Summary

There is friction between Mrs. Lithebe and Gertrude as the latter is starting to miss her former life and the freedom it gave her.

The case against Absalom is nearing completion, but against the proceedings is the fact that another similar crime has been committed, where a European householder has been shot dead by a native housebreaker, and this may have a direct effect on the sentence to be imposed on Absalom.  The community of the Mission House is now apprehensive about the sentence that Absalom will receive, although they recognize that the Judge is well-respected. He may be under pressure from the authorities to impose the maximum sentence.

Chapter 28 provides details of the Judge’s final statement when the case is reviewed in detail.  The outcome was never in dispute, and Absalom is found guilty of the crime of murder. The Judge says, “On what grounds, can this Court make any recommendation to mercy?  I have given this long and serious thought, and I cannot find any extenuating circumstances.” The Judge asks Absalom if he has anything to say before sentence is passed on him.  Absalom says, “I killed this man, but I did not mean to kill him, only I was afraid.” The Judge passes out the death sentence on Absalom. Some of the members of the public start wailing at this news.

Before the sentence is carried out, arrangements are made for Absalom’s marriage.  Father Vincent conducts the ceremony in the prison, which is attended by Kumalo, Gertrude and Msimangu.

Amidst the grief of the impending execution of Absalom, Kumalo is pleased that he has married the girl, and he tells him that he will care for the child as if it were his own.

He tells his son that he will be returning home to Ndotsheni in order to provide support to his mother.

Absalom says that if his child is a boy he should be named Peter.

As they leave the prison, Absalom’s wife says to Kumalo, “Am I now your daughter?”   Kumalo confirms that she is.

Kumalo then goes to his brother’s carpenter’s shop to say farewell, and John admires his brother for taking Gertrude and her child, and Absalom’s wife back with him to Ndotsheni. Kumalo is still bitter towards his brother because John’s son betrayed Absalom.  He tries to warn John that his quest for power will only further corrupt him, and Kumalo gets some self-satisfaction from the fact that he is able to disconcert his brother and make him feel less secure. 

Before Kumalo departs for the countryside, a social gathering is organized at Mrs. Lithebe’s house.  It is revealed that Msimangu intends to enter a Monastery, which is something of a surprise. Kumalo reminds them that they will all have to rise early in the morning in order to catch the train. 

Next day, Gertrude has gone; leaving her little boy and the new clothes that Kumalo had bought for her.

Analysis

It is clear that the second murder of a white citizen by a burglar taints Absalom’s trial. If this had been an isolated crime, then perhaps the Court may have been moved towards clemency, but the worry is that this type of crime will escalate unless there is a suitable deterrent.  Many of the black community were prepared for the worst, but even so, when the death sentence was announced it was still a shock.

Paton makes the point that the road to total integration in South Africa is a long one, but slowly and surely, bit-by-bit, the segregation of the races will be eroded.  This is symbolized by the fact that the young white man from the Reformatory breaks the longstanding tradition and sits in the black side of the Court. He also visibly helps Stephen Kumalo when he is about to collapse after the sentence is given.

Out of this tragedy comes the ray of hope through the marriage of Absalom and his young pregnant girlfriend. She is now genuinely delighted at being part of Stephen Kumalo’s family.  It is probably the first real family she has had, and certainly the prospect is that her life can now improve.

Kumalo feels the need to return to his wife as soon as possible in order to comfort her, but also to escape from Johannesburg, which has brought him so much grief and finally, to move his newfound family away from the influences of the sinful city. Before he makes the journey, however, he feels he needs to warn his brother John about the dangers he will face if he continues his corrupt way of life. However, when he sees his brother the sense of betrayal returns to him and he cannot resist telling him a small lie in order to frighten him.

The reader might find it strange that Msimangu has decided to enter a Monastery as it appears like a step back from the field of struggle. Apparently, he is the first black man to take such a step, and Stephen Kumalo benefits from the move as Msimangu gives him his savings account.

You will recall that Kumalo’s quest in coming to Johannesburg was to reunite his immediate family.  With Gertrude’s disappearance this has now failed. His son will be executed. His sister and brother will stay on in Johannesburg, and both their fates are in doubt. However, he is not returning home alone. He has now formed a new extended family with Gertrude’s son, a new daughter-in-law and unborn grandchild.

Again we have a symbolic link to the Bible in that Absalom wishes to name his unborn son, Peter after Jesus’ disciple Peter the rock.  The hope is that Kumalo will be able to establish a new community based

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