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Cry, The Beloved Country And Injustice, Fear And Family

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Cry, the Beloved Country and Injustice, Fear, and Family

Nothing is ever perfect. All systems have their flaws. Sometimes more flaws than any good. That was the way it was in South Africa during the apartheid, people had to break away from the family and their tradition just to get food and a little money. The corrupt government spread ideas of inequality and injustice, forcing people to live in fear of their lives. In his protest novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton uses the interaction of characters to illustrate the negative effects of apartheid on both the natives in South Africa and the white oppressors. He uses the subject fear to demonstrate the everlasting ideas of the world's corrupt system of justice and what effects it can have on family and religion.

A corrupt system, such as apartheid, can jumpstart a cycle of inequality and injustice that will roam the country and haunt the families it breaks up. Steven Kumalo's search for Absalom was based on inequalities and racism, which systematically created his troubles. Absalom shot Jarvis out of fear of what he might do to him and his two friends since he caught them in the house robbing him: "And again the tears in the eyes. Who knows if he weeps for the girl he has deserted? Who knows if he weeps for a promise broken...Or does he weep for himself alone, to be let be, to be let alone, to be free from the merciless rain of questions, why, why, why, when he knows not why (99)". Black south Africans are treated different from the white South Africans. Absalom weeps because he is scared of the questions and what their answers could be. He doesn't know why he shot Jarvis because he knew it was the wrong thing to do, but there was nothing else to do. He was scared that Jarvis would get them into trouble; he had no idea that Jarvis was a man who fought for native rights. He is scared of himself and scared that since he killed a man, which in his and his family's mind is the worst thing one could do, what more he could do to other people, including his father, and his pregnant girlfriend. The natives were only allowed to own a small portion of the land as opposed to the white South Africans whose population was miniscule to the natives but they own a much larger quantity of land. The natives own the land that is unusable and course: But the rich green hills break down. They fall into the valley below, and falling,

change their nature. For they grow red and bare; they cannot hold the rain and the

mist, and the streams are dry in the kloofs. Too many cattle feed upon the grass,

and too many fires have burned it. Stand shod upon it, for it is coarse and sharp,

and the stones cut under the feet. It is not kept, or guarded, or cared for, it no

longer keeps men, guards men, or cares for men. (3)

The land of Kumalo's home, Ndotsheni is like this, exhausted and hostile. This is why most young people leave their villages and their families to search for work in larger cities such as Johannesburg. Both Gertrude, Kumalo's sister and Absalom take part in this migration, only to soon find that Johannesburg is dangerously corrupt. Without many opportunities for work and money, and without family support, Absalom turns to a life of crime and robbery while Gertrude becomes a prostitute, however, the two of them are not the only ones. Johannesburg is full of distraught natives turning to crime and anger, lashing out against the white South Africans. Natives constantly rob and aggravate the whites, forcing the whole of South Africa to be paranoid and live in fear of what could happen: "We shall be careful, and knock this off our lives, and knock that off our lives, and hedge about with safety and precaution. And our lives will shrink, but they will be the lives of superior beings; and we shall live in fear, but at least it will not be a fear of the unknown (79)". The white South Africans will subject themselves to a boring, cautious life in return for superiority to the natives. The white population then cares less and less for the natives because they are robbing them of their lives, and the natives are then introduced to more and more injustice, making the crime worse, and the cycle goes in circles endlessly.

Paton also describes the effect on family and focuses mostly on father and son relationships. Kumalo's search begins as he searches every nook and cranny in Johannesburg for Absalom: "Who knows why the warm flesh of a child is such comfort, when one's own child is lost and cannot be recovered? ...But this, the purpose of our lives, the end of all our struggle is beyond human wisdom...But he stood up. That was Msimangu talking at the door. It was time to continue our search (62)". He spends so much time looking for Absalom, going from place to place, each one only leading to the slightest clue of where he is, exhausting him. Each of the stops though, provides Kumalo with more information on the person his son has become. This is what exhausts him most of all. He finds out his son goes from a fine worker to a criminal, then to a reformatory student, and then a murderer. When they are finally reunited, they are virtually strangers: "I have searched every place for you. To that also is no answer. The old man loosens his hands and his son's hands slip from them lifelessly. There is a barrier here, a wall, that cuts off one from the other (98)". The trial, and all the rest of the time they spend together before Absalom's sentence doesn't help in bringing them closer, until after he is found guilty. Then as Kumalo reads Absalom's letters from prison, he finds true evidence of repentance and sorrow and sees the son



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