Cry the Beloved Country
Alan Paton
Contributed by Cinderella Domino
Chapter 6
Summary

Kumalo returns to Mrs. Lithebe’s lodgings drained and dispirited. 

The two women sense Kumalo’s depression and leave him to contemplate the recent events in silence.

The young man who brought the news comes to Mrs. Lithebe’s house to speak with Kumalo. He wishes to discuss the arrangements concerning a lawyer for Absalom.  Although Absalom has admitted the crime, it is important that he has a lawyer because the young man does not trust John Kumalo, and it is important that the court believes Absalom’s story. The young man takes Kumalo back to the Mission House so that the pair can talk with Father Vincent.  Father Vincent comforts the old man and he shows that he is an unselfish man. He undertakes to obtain a lawyer for Absalom and to arrange his marriage to the young pregnant girl.

Kumalo feels that he is not carrying this burden alone and he is very grateful to Father Vincent for assisting him.

The next day, Kumalo resolves to seek out Absalom’s girlfriend.  He learns that the girl has lived her entire life in Johannesburg and she tells Kumalo that she has had three boyfriends, all of whom have ended up in prison. As a result, the only way she can get kindness and attention is to offer herself sexually.  Whether it is through stress or depression, Kumalo performs a cruel act towards the girl. He asks her if she would be willing to go to bed with him and she indicates, yes. Kumalo immediately feels regret for this action and suddenly feels overwhelming compassion for the girl.  He asks her if she is willing to marry his son and he tells her that she cannot carry on living here, and that he will find a place for her to stay close by the Mission. He tells her to make preparations for the move. 

Analysis

We now see the significance of the names given to his characters by Paton.

Just as St. Stephen endured the stoning and prolonged agony, so Kumalo endures the agony of his son’s plight. You will recall that Absalom rebelled against his father King David. John the Baptist prophesied the coming of Jesus, being his cousin, and there are similarities here between the relationship of Stephen and John. 

We wonder how Kumalo would cope without the assistance he has received firstly from Msimangu, and now Father Vincent. Both have supplied practical help.

The girl’s story in Chapter 16 gives a real insight into the problems faced by people who have lost the continuity of family life.  She is apparently alone and can only find any sort of relationship by giving herself sexually.

We see a lapse from Stephen when he acts cruelly towards the girl, brought on by his depression.  This marks the lowest point of his spirit, and despite the tragedies that are to come, Kumalo seems determined to rise above the situation. He comes to the realization that he cannot change the world; he can only do the best he can for those around him.

The compassion shown towards him by those at the Mission House rubs off on Kumalo, and from here on in, he becomes a more caring and complete person.

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