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The Biblical Message of Cry, the Beloved Country

The Biblical Message of Cry, the Beloved Country

Alan Paton’s book, “Cry, the Beloved Country”, is about agitation and turmoil of both whites and blacks over the white segregation policy called apartheid. The book describes how understanding between whites and blacks can end mutual fear and aggression, and bring reform and hope to a small community of Ndotcheni as well as to South Africa as a whole. The language of the book reflects the Bible; furthermore, several characters and episodes are reminiscent of stories from the New Testament and teachings of Christ. Thus, Alan Paton, as a reformer and the author of “Cry, the Beloved Country”, gives the people of South Africa a new, modern Bible, where he, like Christ, teaches to “love thy brother as yourself” in order to help whites and blacks overcome the fear and misunderstanding of each other.

The language of the book from the very beginning reveals its biblical nature. “The great valley of Umzimkulu is still in darkness, but the light will come there. Ndotcheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there also.” The style includes symbols such as light and darkness, short clauses connected by “and” or “but”, and repetition. This style is used to represent speech or thoughts “translated” from Zulu.

Jesus Christ is symbolized by the figure of Arthur Jarvis. He is a white reformer who fights for rights of blacks. Like Christ, he is very altruistic and wants to pursue his aims at all costs. His friend, Harrison, says: “Here [Arthur Jarvis] was, day to day, on a kind of mission.” (173) Arthur Jarvis and his wife Mary “agree that it’s more important to speak the truth than to make money.” (172) Arthur Jarvis is killed in his house by Absalom, a black youth who gets entangled in crime. Absalom only intends to rob Arthur Jarvis, and the homicide is unintentional. Absalom thinks that Arthur Jarvis is out and comes into the house with two friends. However, when Arthur Jarvis “heard a noise, and came down to investigate” (186). Startled and afraid, Absalom fires blindly. Absalom later says in court: “Then a white man came into the passage… I was frightened. I fired the revolver.” (194) Absalom’s blind fear is symbolic of the fear, blindness, and misunderstanding between whites and blacks; these are the reasons of racial hatred.

Cry, the Beloved Country: Change

In undertaking a journey, a person learns and changes.

One may change emotionally, psychologically, as well as spiritually. The

journeyer is scared at first, then usually goes through some pain and


In the end, however, this journeyer comes out different then they were when

they began, with some understanding. Stephan Kumalo, James Jarvis, and

Absalom Kumalo undertake this very thing in Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan

Paton. Stephan Kumalo, a priest from the small native town of Ndotsheni,

takes a journey to the great city of Johannesburg. He intends to find his

sick sister and his son, Absalom, who has gone away. At first, Stephan has

“the fear of the unknown, the fear of the great city”(44) where his loved

ones had gone to and not written in months.

Not long after he begins, he realizes “this is a bitter journey”(55) upon

hearing the occupations and practices of his sister. He goes through pain and

suffering, more and more as he learns of his brother’s loss of faith in the

church, and the murder his son has committed. But, soon enough he comes to an

understanding of this world in Johannesburg. He learns why there is so much

crime and poverty. He then has hope the success of his daughter in-law and

his nephew in Ndotsheni. He gains hope for the rebuilding of the tribe.

Stephan Kumalo comes away from his journey changing spiritually and knowing

that there is “comfort in a world of desolation”(94). He changes emotionally

and becomes stronger. Also, he changes psychologically and learning the

troubles of Johannesburg and apartheid, and their various causes. James

Jarvis undergoes vast changes during his journey. He is told that his son has

been killed, and he leaves for Johannesburg at once. His son, Arthur, was a

social activist helping natives in South Africa, trying to get better

hospitals and schools for them. These are subjects James Jarvis never thought

about much.

When he arrives at his son’s house, the place of Arthur’s death, he reads

through some of his manuscripts and books. First, James suffers a lot

thinking about his son’s death. As he reads through some of his books and

papers however, he comes to an understanding how great a man his son was, and

what he stood for. “He sat smoking his pipe and was lost in thought”(180)

after he reads a manuscript on what is permissible and what is not

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