Cry the Beloved Country
Alan Paton
Contributed by Cinderella Domino
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Chapter 5
Summary

The Evening Star newspaper carries a tragic headline, “Well-known City Engineer Shot Dead.  Assailants thought to be natives.”

Msimangu is shocked at this terrible news, for Arthur Jarvis was a brave young white man and one of the stalwarts of the fight for justice for all South African people.  He was in fact President of the African Boys’ Club in Claremont. Jarvis was regarded as one of the main bridges between whites and blacks in Johannesburg.

Father Vincent, another local white minister from England, asks Kumalo if he knows Jarvis’ father, James, as he owns the farm overlooking Kumalo’s home village. Kumalo admits that he does know James Jarvis and sympathizes with him, as Arthur was his only son.

Kumalo sinks into a deep depression. Since his arrival in Johannesburg he has been bombarded with one distressing episode after another and he sees no hope in the situation apart from Gertrude’s boy. He had known that the situation between the whites and the blacks could be better, but he hadn’t realized how poor relationships were between the two races until he arrived in Johannesburg.

Noting Kumalo’s depression, Msimangu comforts Kumalo and tells him that the young white man at the Reformatory will do a good job in searching for Absalom. They will allow the young man time to make his research and will visit with him again in a few days.  Msimangu has to conduct a service at Ezenzeleni, which is an institute for the blind, and he suggests the Kumalo accompanies him as he might find it interesting. Kumalo is lifted by his visit to Ezenzeleni where he witnesses how well blacks and whites can work together, and he is moved by the care given to the blind natives.  Kumalo is introduced to the European Superintendent of the Institute, who showed him round the facility.

He had time to contemplate all that had happened to him and Kumalo’s thoughts turned to his son’s girlfriend and the unborn child that would be his grandchild.  He was more determined than ever to see through his quest to rebuild his family, which involved Gertrude and her son, and his own son, the girl and the unborn child.

In the afternoon, Msimangu conducted his service and Kumalo was inspired by the young minister’s sermon. The sermon was well received by the congregation and at the end Kumalo told Msimangu that his depression was lifted. 

Kumalo returned to Mrs. Lithebe, who had found a buyer for Gertrude’s possessions, and these were sold for ’3, which was a good bargain.

The young man from the Reformatory arrived with the news that it was a Reformatory boy, Absalom, and two others, one being his cousin (John’s son) who had committed the crime of murdering Jarvis, but apparently it was Absalom that had fired the shot. The young man was concerned what the repercussions would be for the Reformatory.  He informed Kumalo that the three boys had been arrested. 

Arrangements were made for Kumalo to visit the prison, but on the way there, Kumalo wished to break the news of what had happened to his brother. John’s reaction to the news was to blame Absalom entirely for the crime and try to free his own son.

The two brothers make their way to the prison. When they arrive they are taken to separate rooms to meet with their sons.

Kumalo asks Absalom, “Why did you do this terrible thing, my child?” The son confides in his father that it was through fear that he fired the gun. He did not mean to kill the white man.  Kumalo goes on to ask Absalom about his girlfriend, and whether he wishes to marry her. He does and Kumalo hopes that this can be arranged whatever the outcome of the trial. The father comforts his fearful son and confirms that he will stand by him. Kumalo leaves his son and meets up with his brother.

John is concerned about obtaining a lawyer for his son.  He is preoccupied regarding his problems and does not offer to help Kumalo. 

Kumalo then remembers words spoken to him by Father Vincent back at the Mission when the news broke about the murder.  He offered help them, and Kumalo resolves to seek this help.

Analysis

The previous Chapters have provided the ingredients that lead to the high degree of lawlessness among the black community. Many whites attribute the crime-wave to the nature of black people considering that they are inherently evil.  This is an ignorant standpoint. The lawlessness stems from the fact that the black community suffers social degradation and many young black males will not work year after year for a pittance, and see the only way to improve their situation through a life of crime.

The murder of Arthur Jarvis is ironic, for he is one of the few white people who endeavor to bring justice and social reform to all the people, and his death severely damages this cause.

In these Chapters there are several passages that are statements regarding the situation in South Africa and have no direct relationship to the plot development. From one of these passages comes the title of the book and we read, “Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear.  Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire.” This passage stresses the change taking place from the old values into a regime where there is nothing to hold together the people.  The result is chaos, for the native people have seen the rules devalued and ignored and they are without guidance.

Paton indicates that trouble is mounting in Johannesburg and that crime is escalating.  He views the increased Police suppression as exacerbating the situation. It is not just the whites that fear the increase in lawlessness. The god-fearing native population shares their fear as well.

The storm that Kumalo has faced since his arrival in the city ceases during his visit to Ezenzeleni. He is cheered-up by the scene of the whites helping the blind black natives, and he is inspired by Msimangu’s sermon.  He is given renewed strength to pursue his quest, which now seems clearer to him. He is also determined to take a more active role in the education of his own people back home. Msimangu’s sermon enables Kumalo to obtain a better understanding of the suffering endured by his people.  Kumalo is impressed by the young minister’s unselfish devotion to his flock.

Kumalo has had to come to terms with the fact that his sister was a prostitute and his brother is a corrupt businessman.  Now he is faced with the shock that his son is a murderer. It is with some trepidation that he journeys to the prison to meet his son. Although he was able to break down the barrier between himself and his sister, the task with Absalom will be much greater.

His brother, John, is seen in a true light, having no regard for his brother’s situation. He is only concerned with saving his own son.  If he can show no loyalty to his family, how can he show any loyalty towards his people?

The scene in the prison between Kumalo and Absalom is quite touching and poignant, and despite Kumalo’s initial fears, the pair is soon reconciled. Kumalo can see that his son genuinely regrets his actions, and reading between the lines, Jarvis’ death is an unfortunate accident caused by Absalom’s fear.  We suspect that John’s son has led him astray. 

We note that Kumalo will seek help from Father Vincent, another caring white man.

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