Cry, the Beloved Country - Book Three, Chapters 4-7 Summary & Analysis

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Summary

Rumors spread that the sticks in the ground mark out a dam, though no one knows where the water will come from. No one returns to do anything with the sticks. Kumalo goes about taking care of his church and villagers, while he anxiously awaits news of Jarvis’ return from Pretoria. The little white boy comes back to practice more Zulu. He makes Kumalo laugh with his enthusiasm and confidence. Kumalo is saddened to learn the boy will return to Johannesburg after his grandfather comes home. The boy promises to return for more Zulu lessons. As he leaves he sees a car on the road. He knows his grandfather is back.

Immediately after the boy departs, Kumalo is surprised to find a young black man waiting for him at the church. His name is Napoleon Letsitsi. Jarvis has hired him as an agricultural demonstrator to revolutionize the way the community farms. Kumalo invites Napoleon to stay with them. Over dinner, Napoleon explains his potential plans for the valley. They will be using fertilizer, planting trees, plowing in different patterns, and sharing the land instead of maintaining individual farms. The dam will be supplied by a pipe from the river to irrigate all the fields. Kumalo and Napoleon are excited and impatient for the work to begin, and Kumalo wants Napoleon to meet the chief. Just as they are about to leave, the little white boy returns to say goodbye to Kumalo. He is leaving early the next morning for Johannesburg.

Some time later, Kumalo and his neighbors prepare for the confirmation ceremony of some local youth. Kumalo’s friend who works for Jarvis arrives early with the milk, announcing that Jarvis’ wife has died. The village is aware of the woman’s gentle kindness and everyone is devastated. Kumalo wants to offer his sympathies in person but decides he has no business at the white man’s home. He writes a heartfelt note and sends it immediately off to High Place, Jarvis’ farm. He worries that Jarvis’ wife died of a broken heart over her dead son.

Rain pours over the valley during the confirmation in the church, which is led by the Bishop. After the celebration and simple meal, the Bishop tells Kumalo he wants to send him to another community, believing Kumalo’s proximity to the Jarvis family is bad for everyone. Kumalo tries to protest, telling the Bishop about his joyful homecoming and his desire to lead the community in its agricultural evolution. But the Bishop adamantly believes Kumalo is too old and had too much scandal to effectively lead the building of a new church. They are interrupted by a boy with a letter for Kumalo. Jarvis writes thanking Kumalo for his sympathies and announcing that his wife wanted to finance the building of a new church in Ndotsheni. He gently tells Kumalo that she was sick before Arthur died, a tacit way of absolving Kumalo’s family from blame. The Bishop reads the letter, and realizes Kumalo still has a great deal of work to do in Ndotsheni. After the Bishop leaves, Kumalo, his wife, and the villagers create a floral wreath to send to Jarvis for the funeral, along with a note expressing the grief of the entire community.

Napoleon starts the farming improvements, but it is slow work. The villagers are resistant to change, and they don’t want to give up their land and cattle. As progress is made, Napoleon is hopeful that the following year will be even better. Napoleon is slightly bitter about Jarvis’ involvement in revitalizing the community, disliking their dependence on a white man. If whites hadn’t withheld so much in the first place, blacks wouldn’t be so dependent now. He tells Kumalo that no matter how effectively they restore the valley, there still won’t be enough work and food to support the community. Young people will still inevitably go to Johannesburg for opportunities. Napoleon surprises Kumalo with his perspective on working for the greater good of Africa as a whole, not just for oneself or one’s race. Kumalo only advises Napoleon never to seek power or to hate whites indiscriminately.

On the evening before the fifteenth of the month, Kumalo climbs nearby Emoyeni mountain to keep vigil and pray for his son. He runs into Jarvis on the road. Jarvis thanks him for the church’s floral wreath and discusses plans for the new church in Ndotsheni. He admits he is moving to Johannesburg, but he promises to return frequently to monitor the work he began in Ndotsheni. They talk of Jarvis’ grandson and how much he reminds them of Arthur Jarvis. Kumalo tells him he is going up the mountain. Jarvis understands the reason. He consoles Kumalo with thoughts of all the new and good work they will do together in the valley. Kumalo tries to thank him for all his assistance, but Jarvis chafes at the compliments and leaves, wishing Kumalo well.

Kumalo finishes his climb and spends the night praying, confessing his sins, and running through the list of all the blessings in his life, all the good people and good work now being done. He prays for all that has been lost but also for the hope of redemption for all of Africa. He falls asleep but wakes before dawn, thinking of his son who is having his final meal and will hang as the sun rises. He wonders what Absalom is feeling and wishes Absalom’s death could be stopped by God himself. He continues to pray until he thinks it is the time of his son’s death. He stands and removes his hat, and watches the sun rise.

Analysis

Kumalo prays for a miracle for Ndotsheni, and James Jarvis is that miracle. But, his perspective varies differently from that of Napoleon, who represents another facet of the generation gap. Napoleon is a young black man who wants to take action to lift his people up. He received an education and can revolutionize poor black communities with his agricultural knowledge. He is resentful that they must rely on the patronage of a white man for the financial support to start this revolution: “But it is not the way it should be done, that is all” (Page 244). He seethes with latent bitterness, whereas Kumalo simply feels gratitude toward Jarvis. Kumalo is too old for “new and disturbing thoughts and they hurt him” (Page 246), but the next generation has a more strident and fearless worldview. Though Napoleon is taking proactive, nonviolent steps to improve the situation of his people, his discontent and idealistic views on a united Africa foreshadow unrest. As long as he and others like him have resentment in their hearts, there is a likely chance that resentment will boil over into violence, despite Kumalo’s advice to Napoleon to avoid hating whites indiscriminately.

Several passages in this final section once again speak directly to a white South African reader, imploring them to acknowledge and revere the humanity of the black race and to examine their own fear and try to overcome it. The author again uses repetition to drive home his points, creating a narrative rhetorical voice that lends itself to an oral speech, such as in the passage, “And what was there evil in their desires, in their hunger? That men should walk upright in the land where they were born, and be free to use the fruits of the earth, what was there evil in it? Yet, men were afraid, with a fear that was deep, deep in the heart, a fear so deep that they hid their kindness, or brought it out with fierceness and anger…They were afraid because they were so few. And such fear could not be cast out, but by love” (Page 252). Paton circuitously indicts his reader with this fear. He cleverly avoids offending his audience by speaking of “them” instead of abrasively accusing a second person “you” of being afraid, despite his frequent use of “you” throughout the novel. In doing so, he tries to gently prod his reader to explore their own feelings and motivations and to rise above any negative instincts.

The final section is laced with optimism – Ndotsheni is on the mend and Kumalo takes stock of all the generous and kind people he has met on his journey to Johannesburg and back. The novel makes the subtle claim that there are plenty of good people in the world, and through these good people the world can change. Yet the final paragraph contains an ominous warning. “Yes it is dawn that has come…The great valley of the Umzimkulu is still in darkness, but the light will come there. Ndotsheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there also. For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret” (Page 253). Paton turns Kumalo’s dawn vigil into a metaphor, using light and darkness to have the greater meaning of enlightenment and success versus ignorance and fear. Despite his optimism, he is realistic enough to recognize the journey to a just and equal South Africa will be long and difficult. Publishing the novel as apartheid was institutionalizing racism, Paton knew there was little hope of a better world in South Africa for the foreseeable future.

Vocabulary

pastoral, afoot, wrest, overwrought, transmute, render

This section contains 1,597 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
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