Cry Cry, The Beloved Country was written by Alan Paton and although it was clear that he did not personally appear in the book, he shared many of the same beliefs as characters in the book.
Like Arthur Jarvis, Paton was an advocate in abolishing the apartheid movement. He believed that every person, white or black, should be equal and he volunteered to lead in reformatories, like the one that was visited in the book. Alan Paton was not even in South Africa when he finished writing this book, but by comparing his personal life to the book you can clearly notice that South Africa was on his mind the whole time. Therefore it is obvious that Paton’s personal life influenced his writings. Cry, The Beloved Country is a novel written and published in 1948. The beginning of the book starts off with Kumalo, a small village priest in South Africa, lounging in his house when a small child comes into his home because she has a letter addressed for him. Kumalo takes the letter and has his wife feed the young child because she is clearly very hungry.
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Once the girl leaves Kumalo’s wife comes into the room and waits with Kumalo to open the letter, in hopes it is from their son, Absalom, who they have not heard from since he left for Johannesburg; Upon opening the letter they learn that it is not from Absalom, but from Kumalo’s sister, Gertrude, who has fallen ill and has requested that Kumalo comes to see her. Kumalo tells his wife to bring him their school savings that was for their son, but knowing he will never return Kumalo takes the money for his trip. Kumalo is very skeptical about going to Johannesburg because anyone that has left his village to go there has never returned, but he goes for his sister, and more importantly, in hopes to find his son. Once in Johannesburg, Kumalo finds a man that said he will buy him a bus ticket, but once he gives the man a pound from his savings the man runs off; Kumalo is confused on why he was betrayed and he was starting to get scared because he was in the big city where he had never been before. While standing in line for the bus Kumalo meets an elderly man who knows the place Kumalo is searching for and leads him there. Kumalo finds Gertrude and learns she is a liquor dealer and a prostitute.
Gertrude is sad and embarrassed because she grew up in a Christian home and she thinks that her brother will judge her. Kumalo yells at her and tells her she is going to return home with him, Gertrude cries and panics saying she is not a good enough person to return home, but after they pray together she agrees to return home. Kumalo is now on a mission to find his son, but every time he goes to the place his son was last seen, they learn he is now at a different location. While searching for his son Kumalo learns that Arthur Jarvis, a white activist in abolishing apartheid, has been murdered. Kumalo is sad because Arthur grew up in his small village and he fears that Absalom may have been the one that murdered him. Kumalo’s worst fear soon becomes reality as he learns his only child has murdered Arthur Jarvis and has been sentenced to hanging. Before Kumalo returns home he helps Absalom marry his girlfriend, and tells Absalom’s girlfriend that herself, and their baby can return home with him and live with them. Gertrude is disappointed in herself and what she has become, so she decides to become a nun and Absalom’s wife tells Gertrude she will take care of her son.
Once they return home Kumalo and his family fears that he will be shamed for his son’s actions, but James Jarvis, Arthur’s dad, is very forgiving to their family. James is now more connected to his village than he has ever been before. He starts helping by giving fresh milk to the village kids, the big reason for this is that he had read Arthur’s writings from his studies and he learned how much his son cared about the equality of all South Africans. The night before his son’s hanging Kumalo goes to a mountain top and falls asleep, when he wakes he thinks about his son and what he is doing at that moment and when the sun rises the narrator speaks, wondering when the emancipation will come to the forsaken land of Africa.
Absalom was a troubled black man who lived in Africa during the start of an apartheid movement. Absalom was put into a reformatory just like the one Alan Paton had spent many of his years working at. Alan Paton was actually the director of a reformatory near the town of Johannesburg, which was the main setting in the book (editors of Britannica). Alan Patton was a white activist in trying to abolish the apartheid (segregation throughout Africa) just like one of the main characters, Arthur Jarvis, who was living a very successful life as he tried his best to denounce oppression of black citizens in Africa; although it is not said it seems as if Alan Paton sees himself as Arthur Jarvis, because they share the same beliefs and have the same determination as they were both not doing it for themselves, but just to make their home a better place to live (wikipedia.org).
Although Absalom was only in a reformatory for a very little amount of time and it was barely mentioned in the book, Alan Paton’s early life revolved around his work in reformatories. Shortly after Absalom’s release from the reformatory, he murdered Arthur Jarvis which represented the 5% of men that lost their trust from the ten-thousand men that were at the reformatory Paton ran (wikipedia.org). Although Arthur Jarvis was murdered his legacy still moved on because of all his writings which explained everything he wanted to do.
When Paton decided he wanted to leave the reformatory he tried to enter the war but was denied so he traveled around the world and started writing his book, Cry, The Beloved Country. Even though Paton left his reformatory, he left behind such a strong foundation that his ideas and structure has been carried on just like Arthur’s did after he left(Peterson)(wikipedia.com). Because Africa was such an important factor in Alan Paton’s life it only makes sense for him to write a book about the problems that black Africans faced and he showed that not all of the white men that lived there agreed with the apartheid laws that were being enforced.While on tour, Alan Paton sent many copies to many publishers and received large amounts of positive reviews with all of them being very excited for him to release his book. Once released, it sold out on the very first day, however, many of the people in Africa did not like the book because of the regime and they became fear ridden because a white man had written this book that supported their side.
One of the most positive outlooks on this was from Dennis Brutus, a poet in prison. He said that this was a good chance for the people to start a movement and awaken their society in their time of needs, but because he was a black man in prison he was seen as a minority and no one took him seriously (enotes.com). Kevin Roose, a writer from New York Times, says, “It’s a beautiful book” and proceeds to talk about how perfectly Paton describes the non-violent resistance that was happening at the time.
He ends his review by stating that Paton, “Never lost his ability to love to even those who oppressed him”(Roose). James Sterne a critic from, The New Republic, wrote in 1948 that Cry, The Beloved Country is one of the best novels of our time and ultimately helped put South Africa on the map; he even went as far to say that the book is an important work of African colonial literature (study.com). Although most critics do have positive things to say about the novel, some feel different about it because of the prospective it is narrated from. Many people in Africa at the time believed that more of the book should have been told from Absalom’s view instead of his Kumalo’s. Critics also opposed the book however, calling it a, “Sentimental and propagandic treatise”(study.com).
However, most of the critic reviews on Cry, The Beloved Country were positive saying that the book was a great way to let the world see what really was going on in Africa, but it was really weird to see that many of the negative reviews came from the colored people in Africa. The main reason for this was probably because they were probably scared to go against their regime in fear of what would happen to themselves. Overall Alan Paton had a positive influence on everyone in Africa fighting against the apartheid; despite the early skeptics Cry, The Beloved Country is now the second most sold book in Africa only having less sales than the Bible.With all the extraordinary things that had happened to Alan Paton throughout his life, he was able to compose the book, Cry, The Beloved Country; and having so many real life experiences he was able to connect his book to the real world.
Because of Alan Paton’s personal life he composed one of Africa’s top selling books, making him a historic figure in Africa.