Cry, the Beloved Country Summary and Analysis
by Alan Paton
Book II, Chapters 18-24
This chapter begins with the exact same paragraph that begins the first chapter, describing the road that leads to Ixopo, but then turns to the estate of James Jarvis, who watches the ploughing of his fields. His workers are weak and ignorant, knowing nothing about farming, but with greater education the workers simply go to look for better occupations. Jarvis considers the various problems of agriculture, such as the scarcity of land and the problem of splitting large farms into smaller ones. Jarvis sees a police car from Ixopo and suspects that it will be the Afrikaner policeman Binnendyk. Jarvis notes that Ixopo is now full of Afrikaners. The police captain van Jaarsveld brings Jarvis the news of his son's murder. van Jaarsveld offers him every assistance, and tells him that there is a plane waiting at Pietermaritzburg that can take him to Johannesburg by midnight. Jarvis tells van Jaarsveld that his wife is watching from the window, and knows that something is wrong. Jarvis goes into the house and tells his wife, Margaret as he arranges to make the journey to Johannesburg.
By beginning the second section of the novel with the same paragraphs that began the first section, Alan Paton suggests the similarities between Stephen Kumalo and the protagonist of this section, the wealthy white landowner James Jarvis. Yet while Kumalo and Jarvis both hail from the same area, Paton makes clear that the two men approach South Africa from very different perspectives; they both wish for the natives of Ixopo to stay in the area, but while Kumalo does so for their religious and moral health, Jarvis sees these natives as mere workers, worth little more than mere commodities. The story of James Jarvis will nevertheless parallel Stephen Kumalo's, as both men use the tragedy and murder concerning their respective sons to take a new perspective on the problems of South Africa.
While certainly more complex than several of the one-dimensional benevolent white heroes that pervade Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton portrays James Jarvis as a commendable figure. He is concerned about the fate of South Africa and that of its citizens; his attitudes are not yet progressive, but will become so in time, and it is he who will emerge as the savior of the novel. While this is part of the character's awakening, it is nevertheless problematic and remains part of the novel's most basic and evident flaw.
John Harrison, the brother of Mary, Jarvis's daughter-in-law, meets Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis at the airport. He tells them that Mary and her children have taken the news poorly, and takes them to the Police Laboratories, where they learn that the police have been combing the plantations on Parkwold Ridge and that Arthur had been writing a paper on "The Truth About Native Crime." James Jarvis admits that he and his son did not agree on the question of native crime. Harrison tells Jarvis that Arthur had learned Afrikaans, as well as Zulu while thinking of learning Sesuto, perhaps to help him stand for a Member of Parliament in the next election. Harrison admits that he tries to treat natives decently, but he is scared stiff in Johannesburg of native crime. Jarvis wonders why this happened to his son, of all people. He considers his son a missionary, despite the fact that he has never thought well of the term. Jarvis laments to his wife that he never learned more about his son, and his wife admits that Arthur's life was so different from theirs.
The second section of Cry, the Beloved Country exists primarily to describe the progress that James Jarvis makes as he becomes more aware and more sympathetic to the problems of blacks in South Africa. While Stephen Kumalo will later play a role in this revelation, the impetus for this change is, to a great extent, the murdered Arthur Jarvis. Of all of the white characters of the novel, it is Arthur Jarvis who is the most idealized: a benevolent man with a reputation for hard work and a dedication to improving conditions for blacks in South Africa.
Yet, as Paton charts it, the conversion of James Jarvis is an incredibly problematic one. The very facts of the murder strain credibility; Jarvis emerges from the murder of his son by a black man more sympathetic to their plight than ever. Furthermore, the conversion of James Jarvis presumes that his attitudes toward blacks are significantly bad to provoke a change. Yet Paton never fully elucidates the character's racism, and in comparison to the obviously bigoted John Harrison, James Jarvis seems positively liberal. While Paton suggests differences in opinion between James and Arthur Jarvis, in the father's actions and demeanor these differences never become quite clear.
At the home of the late Arthur Jarvis, James Jarvis finds many letters and invitations asking Arthur to speak. He sees four pictures on the walls: Christ crucified, Abraham Lincoln, the white gabled house of Vergelegen, and a painting of leafless willows by a river. On the bookshelves Jarvis finds hundreds of books about Abraham Lincoln, as well as many books about South Africa and its history. Jarvis reads a letter from the African Boys' Club noting that Arthur had been elected president, and finds a paper written by his son that writes that "it was permissible to use unskilled men for unskilled work. But it is not permissible to keep men unskilled for the sake of unskilled work. It was permissible when we discovered gold to bring labour to the mines . . It is not permissible for us to go on destroying family life when we know that we are destroying it . . . The old tribal system was, for all its violence and savagery, for all its superstition and witchcraft, a moral system. Our natives today produce criminals and prostitutes and drunkards, not because it is their nature to do so, but because their simple system of order and tradition and convention has been destroyed." Jarvis then reads a chapter in a book about Lincoln entitled "The Famous Speech at Gettysburg."
Alan Paton introduces the character of Arthur Jarvis posthumously in this chapter through the use of his letters and speeches, each of which express the ideas for South Africa that Paton considers exemplary. Paton goes as far as to compare Arthur Jarvis with Abraham Lincoln, suggesting that he has similar ideas for the South African blacks' liberation and improvement. Yet the writings of Arthur Jarvis merely continue the pattern of condescension that pervade Cry, the Beloved Country. The speeches of Arthur Jarvis assume no culpability on the European settlers' part, and in fact he excuses nearly all of their past behavior when he excoriates the present system. Furthermore, there is a veneer of contempt that condescension for the native way of life. While he writes that "it is not in their nature" to be criminals and prostitutes and drunkards, Arthur Jarvis focuses on the blacks in South Africa in those terms. Furthermore, Jarvis has a more than patronizing view of the blacks' tribal systems as full of "violence and savagery" and their religious life "superstition and witchcraft." In essence, the speeches of Arthur Jarvis focus on the problems of South Africa from the wrong perspective: this perspective considers the question of what the natives are doing wrong, while not properly asking whether the ruling class of whites bear responsibility for remedying the wrongs they have committed and continue to commit.
The service in Parkwold Church for Arthur Jarvis is the first time that James Jarvis attends church with black people, and it is also the first time that he shakes hands with one. James and Margaret return to the house of the Harrisons that might, and Mr. Harrison invites the Jarvis family to stay as long as they like. Margaret will go back with Mary and the children, and James will remain to wind up Arthur's affairs. Mr. Harrison wishes that the criminals will be strung up, and worries about the possibilities of native crime. He claims that he's not a "nigger-hater," but that they are "getting out of hand" and even started Trade Unions. John Harrison enters as his father argues that the mines have brought great things to South Africa, and a Republic would do terrible things for the country. Jarvis says that he wishes his son were here so that he could argue with Harrison on the subject. Jarvis asks John if he knows about the Boys' Club in Claremont, and asks if he will take him to see it.
Jarvis learns the next morning that the servant at Arthur's house recovered consciousness and was able to identify one of the culprits as a former servant who got a job at a textile factory on Doornfontein. Jarvis continues to read his son's manuscript, and reads the last unfinished paragraph: "The truth is that our Christian civilization is riddled through and through with dilemma. We believe in the brotherhood of man, but we do not want it in South Africa . . . We believe in help for the underdog, but we want him to stay under. . . The truth is that our civilization is not Christian; it is a tragic compound of great ideal and fearful practice, of high assurance and desperate anxiety, of loving charity and fearful clutching of possessions." It ends with the words "allow me a minute." Jarvis sits, deeply moved by the words.
There are three essential factors that precipitate the conversion of James Jarvis from a likely racist to a man with more enlightened and liberal views concerning the situation of blacks in South Africa. The first factor, as established in the previous chapter, is the exposure that James Jarvis finally receives to the ideas of his son. The second factor will be the contact that James Jarvis has with Stephen Kumalo once the two elderly men finally meet. The third factor, which Paton establishes in this chapter, is more subtle and perhaps more interesting than the other, more blatant factors. Paton notes in this chapter that this is the first time that James Jarvis actually has meaningful contact with blacks. The funeral service contains a number of firsts for Jarvis: it is both his first time attending church with blacks and the first time that he shakes hands with one. These events serve to humanize blacks for Jarvis and place them on a more equal footing. By attending church with blacks, Jarvis must acknowledge that both whites and blacks worship the same God and exist under the same divine rule. Furthermore, the act of shaking hands is one that denotes equality between the two parties. It is a sign of reciprocity rather than obedience. For the first time, Jarvis approaches blacks not as servants or workers, but as equals. Paton makes the change in Jarvis's character explicit through the request to see the Boys' Club in Claremont, the institution that best exemplifies his son's concern for social progress.
Despite the underlying tragedy of the situation that Jarvis faces, Paton imbues this chapter with a sense of hope and progress. He does this through the service at Parkwold Church as well as through the contrast between the Harrison father and son. Paton portrays the elder Harrison as the most obvious racist in the novel, a man perpetually concerned that the natives will get "out of hand." Yet he is at his essence an antiquity, even going so far as to dismiss the idea of democracy in South Africa. In contrast, the younger Harrison emerges as a more enlightened and liberal character with similar attitudes to the late Arthur Jarvis. This suggests that the racial attitudes in South Africa will become more liberal through the generations, as men like John Harrison replace men like his father.
Once again the words of Arthur Jarvis serve as a beacon to his father. The final manuscript written by Arthur Jarvis is explicit in its Christian perspective and appeals to both James Jarvis and the reader through these principles. This is perhaps the most effective tactic that Paton employs throughout Cry, the Beloved Country; by using commonly held religious doctrines to argue for equality, he removes the debate from hard political questions that require the assignation of responsibility and blame, which Paton is loathe to do. The religious aspect of the argument also suggests the commonality between James Jarvis and Stephen Kumalo; when the two characters eventually meet, their common ground will be similar values of Christian duty.
The courts in South Africa are held in high esteem, for even the blacks believe that the judges are incorruptible, for they do not always have faith in the law, but still have faith that the judges will uphold it. The Judge calls the court to silence for the murder case of Arthur Trevelyan Jarvis: the defendants are Absalom Kumalo, Matthew Kumalo and Johannes Pafuri. Carmichael says that Absalom will plead guilty to culpable homicide, but not to murder. When the prosecutor says that there is no charge of culpable homicide, Carmichael has his client plead not guilty.
In court, Absalom tells the story: they chose the eighth of October because Johannes said that nobody will be in the house, and when they saw Richard Mpiring, the servant, Johannes hit him in the back with an iron bar. When Arthur Jarvis entered the house, Absalom shot him because he was frightened. They escaped separately, but they met later at the house of Baby Mkize. The prosecutor asks Absalom why he carried a loaded gun if he did not intend to actually shoot someone. Absalom testifies that they discussed the murder at the house of Baby Mkize, and that he buried the revolver in a plantation, after which he prayed for forgiveness.
After court is adjourned, Kumalo, Msimangu, Gertrude and Mrs. Lithebe exit the courtroom. Kumalo trembles as he sees James Jarvis, wondering how he can look at such a man.
Paton continues to pare down the trial of Absalom Kumalo down to the essential question of whether Absalom will receive some mercy or whether he will fall victim to the machinations of John Kumalo. By establishing that the courts and judges in South Africa are held in universal esteem, Paton removes the possible subtext that the sentence that Absalom receives will be a miscarriage of justice on the part of the court and a manifestation of the racism in South Africa.
The testimony that Absalom gives during his trial is important for several reasons. It explains the reluctance of Mrs. Mkize to give information to Kumalo and Msimangu when they visited her earlier in the novel; according to Absalom, the murder was discussed at her home and she was likely privy to the conversation and thus an accomplice. The testimony also establishes that the other perpetrators of the crime share more culpability for the crime than originally established; it was Johannes Pafuri who planned the robbery and hit the servant Mpiring. In addition, the testimony also gives additional evidence that Absalom suffers from a lack of guile and a lack of forethought. Paton continues to suggest that he feels a strong sense of remorse for the crime, but cannot grasp the foolishness of his actions, as demonstrated when he decided to carry a loaded gun when he intended to use the gun solely for intimidation.
This chapter contains the first instance in which James Jarvis and Stephen Kumalo have contact with one another. Paton portrays Kumalo as a man deeply ashamed of himself and his son's actions; he can barely look at Jarvis knowing the gravity of the situation. Kumalo's sense of humility will be a key factor for establishing the relationship between the two men once they come in closer contact with each other.
The discovery of gold in Odendaalsrust in the province of the Orange Free State distracts from the trial of the murder of Arthur Jarvis. There is excitement in Johannesburg, despite the dissatisfaction over the unpronounceable name. There is speculation that the country will be rich again, as shares go up from twenty shillings to one hundred. The only dissent comes from Left Clubs and Church Guilds and societies that promote love and brotherhood. Perhaps a second city like Johannesburg will arise, with a second Parktown and Shanty Town and Pimville. Welfare workers such as Father Beresford and Sir Ernest Oppenheimer suggest that another Johannesburg need not arise, for the government could set up something like the Tennessee Valley Authority, and some say that money is not the important thing at all in the situation. No second Johannesburg is needed, for one is enough.
This chapter breaks almost entirely from the narrative of Cry, the Beloved Country to discuss the larger political situation in South Africa. Paton shifts from practical political solutions to entirely vague and unrealistic recommendations for the solution to the problems in South Africa. The perspective that Paton takes has a strong American influence: after heralding the ideas of Abraham Lincoln in previous chapters, Paton now exalts the New Deal programs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yet these more practical suggestions are secondary to the more emotional and spiritual solutions that Paton offers. Paton shows an affinity for the views of the Left Clubs and Church Guilds, in particular their suggestion that the only solution for South Africa is a greater sense of love and brotherhood over concern for personal gain. In essence, Paton asks for a wholesale abandonment of human nature as the solution for the problems of South Africa.
The discussion of the possibility of a new Johannesburg in South Africa serves to broaden the scope of the novel from the situation in Johannesburg to the entirety of South Africa. This suggests that the problems in Johannesburg are not local and specific only to this large urban area, but exist elsewhere. More importantly, Paton suggests that these problems will continue to increase as urbanization continues in South Africa unless the changes he suggests are implemented.
Jarvis returns to his son's house and finds another work, "Private Essays on the Evolution of a South African," in which his son wrote: "It is hard to be born a South African. One can be born an Afrikaner, or an English-speaking South African, or a colored man or a Zulu. . . One can read, as I read when I was a boy, the brochures about lovely South Africa, that land of sun and beauty sheltered from the storms of the world, and feel pride in it and love for it, and yet know nothing about it at all. It is only as one grows up that one learns that there are other things here than sun and gold and oranges. It is only then that one learns of the hates and fears of our country. It is only then that one's love grows deep and passionate, as a man may love a woman who is true, false, cold, loving, cruel and afraid. . . . From them [my parents] I learned all that a child should learn of honor and charity and generosity. But of South Africa I learned nothing at all." Jarvis puts down the paper, shocked at what his son wrote, but then he continues to read the paper, in which Arthur vowed to devote himself to the service of South Africa. He writes that "I do this not because I am courageous and honest, but because it is the only way to end the conflict of my deepest soul. I do it because I am no longer able to aspire to the highest with one part of myself, and to deny it with another." Jarvis reads little more, and leaves the house. As he leaves, the policeman on guard watches him, and thinks that the old man cannot face it anymore.
Paton continues to suggest in this chapter that a major factor precipitating Jarvis's move from a man unconcerned with the plight of blacks in South Africa to a social activist is direct contact with the situation of blacks in South Africa. In the "Private Essays on the Solution of a South African," Arthur Jarvis suggests that, for whites in his situation in South Africa, the problems of blacks may be ignored simply because they are not present. He suggests that his upbringing with his parents was a very sheltered existence in which he received exposure only to the upper echelons of South African society and was thus unaware of the poverty and injustice that exists for blacks in the nation. The implication of this paper is that Arthur Jarvis only became an activist for social justice when he was fully exposed to the South Africa apart from the "sun and gold and oranges." This further suggests that his father has had no exposure to this side of South Africa himself, and his current contact with the poverty and injustice in South Africa will precipitate a similar change for James Jarvis.
An additional implication of "Private Essays on the Evolution of a South African" is that the shift from sheltered denial to a sense of awareness on the part of whites in South Africa benefits not just the blacks whose plight they may remedy, but also has positive effects for those who work on behalf of South Africa. Arthur Jarvis claims that knowledge and work on behalf of the nation resolved an internal conflict within him, completing the identity of a South African that was previously missing.
Cry, the Beloved Country Essays and Related Content
- Cry, the Beloved Country: Major Themes
- Cry, the Beloved Country: Essays
- Cry, the Beloved Country: Questions
- Cry, the Beloved Country: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Alan Paton: Biography
- Cry, the Beloved Country Summary
- About Cry, the Beloved Country
- Character List
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Book I, Chapters 1-6
- Summary and Analysis of Book I, Chapters 7-12
- Summary and Analysis of Book I, Chapters 13-17
- Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters 18-24
- Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters 25-29
- Summary and Analysis of Book III, Chapters 30-36
- Related Links on Cry, the Beloved Country
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources