Cry the Beloved Country
Alan Paton
Contributed by Cinderella Domino
Chapter 13
Summary

Kumalo is reunited with his wife.  She needs to have confirmation from Kumalo that their son is to die.

Kumalo still hopes for mercy, but this is extremely unlikely.  He explains to his wife Gertrude’s absence, but introduces instead their new daughter.  Kumalo’s wife embraces her new daughter and the small boy, and tells the boy that he is her new child. The young girl bursts into tears at being shown such kindness.

On the way back to their home, there is a sudden break in the drought and they have to run for cover.  They have been praying long and hard for the rains to come. Kumalo is uplifted by his return for although the community has been living on the edge of survival due to the drought; they are far more united than those he met in the impersonal city of Johannesburg.

Kumalo’s followers are well aware of the suffering he and his family have gone through, for news travels fast in this small community, but he has gained much respect from them and they visibly show this to him.

He also has fresh enthusiasm in his work, being inspired by the sermons of Msimangu.  He resolves not to passively accept the problems faced by his community, and decides to go to the Chief, even though this may be a futile gesture, as the Chief has been reduced to a mere figurehead, but at least he is doing all that he can do.  He also goes to the school and meets with the Head Master, but the Head Master advises Kumalo that it is difficult to improve the situation in the school because it is all down to economics.

Kumalo is determined to bring about an improvement to his village, but all he meets is apathy and obstacles. He realizes that improvement can only come through the power of God, and he prays long and hard for the village of Ndotsheni.

He then had a surprise meeting with a small white boy on a horse, who had ridden into the village seeking Kumalo.  The young boy attends St. Mark’s School in Johannesburg and Kumalo tells him that his Church is called St. Mark’s. The boy wishes to learn Zulu.  The boy is Arthur Jarvis’ son. Kumalo tells him that the Zulu language is easy to learn and he will soon pick it up. The pair has a long conversation, a mixture of English and Zulu, and the boy confirms that he will visit again so that Kumalo can speak more Zulu to him.

That night while they were eating their meal, a car came to the Kumalo’s house with cans of milk for the children who are not yet at school.  The man who brought the milk said that if the cans are cleaned and returned here, he will bring milk every day. Kumalo is dumbfounded at this act of kindness.

Kumalo receives four letters from Johannesburg - one is from Absalom to his wife, one is from Absalom to his parents, one is from Msimangu, and the last is from Mr. Carmichael. The letter from Carmichael, the lawyer, explained that there would be no mercy, and the date for the execution had been set.

In Absalom’s letter to his parents he reveals that he is aware of his fate and that he will not see them or his home village again. He is being cared for by a black Priest who is preparing Absalom for what lies ahead.

The date for Absalom’s execution approaches, and Kumalo decides to meditate, and walks out of the valley onto the hills.  There he meets James Jarvis, and Kumalo offers his condolences to James on the recent death of his wife. Jarvis is at pains to reassure Kumalo that her death was not related to the murder of her son, but that she had been ill for some time.

Ever since his son’s death, Jarvis has felt a greater sympathy for the black community. Jarvis would like to provide Kumalo and the village with a new Church. 

There is still much concern over the condition of the land although the recent rains have helped. Perhaps Kumalo’s prayers are bearing fruit because a surveyor comes to review the condition of the land and to seek ways to improve it.  It is decided that a dam should be built on Jarvis’ land, and this will help the irrigation of the valley.

Kumalo mourns for his son and the fact that he turned his back on his family and ended up in bad company, which had led to the crime against the Jarvis’ family.

The two men become closer because of their shared grief, and although they feel love for one another, there is still an invisible barrier between them.

The last Chapter of the book reverts to the format of the first Chapter and provides a hope for the future of Ndotsheni and South Africa as a whole.

“Ndotsheni is still is darkness, but the light will come there also. For it is the dawn that has come, and it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear why, that is a secret.” 

Analysis

The end of the drought in the valley of Umzimkulu symbolizes not only the renewal of the land, but also the renewal of Kumalo’s spirit.  Changed and inspired by his visit to Johannesburg, he endeavors to try and change the plight of the people of his village. He may not be successful, but he decides that continued passive acceptance is not the way forward. Initially he is met by obstacle after obstacle with his visits to the Chief and the Head Master, but the ingredients are there for their lives to improve because the people have a sense of community and spirit that is lacking in the city that he has come from.

Respect for Kumalo has increased through the suffering he has endured and so he is in a position to inspire his flock, he being inspired by Msimangu who quietly worked for the good of humanity and was able to bring about small, but permanent changes to people’s lives.

Kumalo can now go to the Chief and urge him to act because he has a better insight into how the tribal system has failed the people.  His experiences in the city have enabled him to be more courageous and to question the Chief’s word. By putting pressure on the Chief, he might be able to make him react. He hopes to have better luck with the Head Master, but he too explains that his hands are tied.

Kumalo has no alternative but to pray harder for his people, and coincidentally or not, James Jarvis who overlooks the valley has decided to continue his son’s work and give assistance to the black community. He started this almost immediately by making a large donation to the African Boys’ Club, and now he provides milk for the village children.  He is determined that his son’s life’s work will not have been in vain. He realizes that the future of South Africa is in the hands of the young, and so he encourages his grandson to learn Zulu in the hope that he will also have a better understanding of the natives’ problems, as he grows older.

Another seemingly unrelated incident occurs when a surveyor arrives in the valley to assess the use of the land.  Then Jarvis, whilst riding in the village, is caught in a downpour and has to take refuge in the Church. He notices that the roof is leaking badly and promises to build a new Church for the village.  It transpires that Jarvis has provided the valley with the surveyor who will assess the agricultural potential of the valley, the aim being for the land to be more productive. Jarvis is not interested in providing the people with charity, but putting them in the position that they can support themselves.

Paton clearly shows that the material side of people’s lives can be easily addressed so that all the people can have a life above a mere subsistence level. The real problem that South Africa faces is the integration of all the races, and this is a far more difficult challenge.  He stresses the importance that the white community needs to understand their black neighbors. This is symbolized through Jarvis’ grandson wanting to learn Zulu. 

Although there are numerous instances of white people being caring and giving to black people, there is still a barrier between the races. This is illustrated by the relationship between Jarvis and Kumalo in the final Chapters of the book.  When Mrs. Jarvis dies, custom prevents Kumalo from visiting Jarvis, and he has to send a letter of condolence. When the pair meets on the mountainside, both mourning for their sons, something holds them back from fully opening their hearts to one another. Unless these barriers are broken down, then Msimangu’s prophecy, who you will recall is Paton’s mouthpiece, will come to fruition.  He prophesied that by the time the whites realize that they must treat the blacks with justice and decency; their patience will have worn away and will have been replaced by hate.

At the end, Kumalo realizes that the solution to South Africa’s problems is through true Christian love for one another.

It is important for the reader to realize that this book was written during a dark period of South Africa’s history, but despite this Paton provides a ray of hope for the future.

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