Cry, the Beloved Country

In some ways, Cry, The Beloved Country, seems to be a novel designed to convince South African society of the value of equality and social justice. What methods does it use to do this? Are some more effective than others?

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References and allusions to the emancipation movement in the United States abound in Cry, the Beloved Country along with figurative comparisons to the quest for freedom. The most obvious use of emancipation imagery regards Arthur Jarvis, who idolized Abraham Lincoln and draws on Lincoln's work to free the slaves during his own quest for social justice. Paton uses this to elucidate the comparison between the antebellum United States and his contemporary South Africa, both societies in which the quest for justice for blacks is paramount. Paton does not use the theme of emancipation merely for its literal context, however; the major question of the novel at its conclusion is when freedom from fear, poverty and bondage will occur.

The Public Significance of Actions

An assumption that Alan Paton makes throughout Cry, the Beloved Country is that numerous actions are significant not in themselves but in what they represent. This is most clearly demonstrated through two separate events, the first in the journey from Alexandra back to Johannesburg and the second at the end of the trial of Absalom Kumalo. In both instances, a white man shows his allegiance to the blacks of South Africa: in the first, a white man carries black men in his car in support of a strike, while in the second the young man from the reformatory exits the courtroom with the blacks. Paton uses this theme in order to show that public declarations of support are an important step in gaining justice in South Africa by demonstrating allegiances and loyalty.