Cry the Beloved Country
Alan Paton
Contributed by Cinderella Domino
Chapter 3
Summary

The next day, Kumalo and Msimangu seek out Gertrude. Kumalo hopes that she will have news concerning his son Absalom.

Kumalo is shocked by the filth and poverty of the streets where his sister lives.  Malnourished children play in the streets without supervision. At first their meeting is frosty, but soon Gertrude comes to life and her brother eventually forgives her, and the pair resolves to stay together.  Gertrude desires to return home and this helps lift Kumalo’s depression, as he hopes to rebuild his family. He will ask his landlady if she will take Gertrude and her son in until they can return home.

Gertrude does not have details of where Absalom is living, but she heard that he associated with his cousin, John’s son. Kumalo decides to seek out his brother, John.

Mrs. Lithebe agrees to take Gertrude and the boy in. She is honored to have a minister in her house for she is a good Christian woman.

Kumalo’s first thought on bringing Gertrude out of the slums is to buy her a new dress and clothes for the boy. Gertrude soon settles into her new life in Mrs. Lithebe’s house and she helps with the household chores whilst the small boy revels in his new surroundings.

Kumalo then meets with his brother and he has clearly prospered and has grown fat. He acts like one of the old tribal Chiefs and is somewhat pompous. He stresses that he is a man of importance in Johannesburg as he has his own business “I can make ’10, ’12 a week.” John confesses to Kumalo that his son and Absalom were rebellious and got up to mischief.  At one time they shared a room and they had work in a factory called Doornfontein Textiles. Perhaps they would know the whereabouts of Absalom. However, at the factory, although the white men there treated them with consideration, they could only advise that Absalom had left some twelve months earlier. Absalom had been staying with a woman called Mrs. Endlela in a street on the outskirts of Westdene.  She told them that Absalom had left and gone to live in Alexandra with Mrs. Nkize.

Kumalo was feeling tired and Msimangu said that they would rest and continue their search next day.

Analysis

Paton is at pains to describe the poverty of the native community in Johannesburg.

It does not require great imagination to visualize the scene in the streets of Claremont where Gertrude lived.  From his description of Gertrude we see that her trade has left her spiritually dead. Kumalo just by his presence, rescues her and forgives her, and leads her back to a better way of life.  She had not written to her brother because of the shame she felt being forced into prostitution to maintain her son. She had traveled to the city to seek her husband, but was unsuccessful. The sickness that she suffers from is shared by many in these ghettos.

We see a glimmer of hope with the prospect of Stephen’s family being rebuilt.

In contrast, John’s life is totally different. In the eyes of the Church his way of life is just as corrupt as Gertrude’s, and that is why he has turned his back on the Church.  He tells Kumalo that he is now free from the tribal system and the ignorant Chiefs that ruled it. He, in fact, acts like a Chief in the city, ordering natives around to do his bidding.  He is now full of his own importance, and although he is in a position of power, he does not use this to pursue good, but for corrupt ideals.

Msimangu plays an important part in the book.  He is in fact the mouthpiece for the author, and through his dialogue, the reader can identify clearly with the evils prevalent in this society. What John envies is the power that the white man has. He wishes to have a share of this power and be like the white man. It is Msimangu that makes this clear to Kumalo.

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