Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country: Narrating Pain and Oppression
Alan Paton, in Cry, the Beloved Country, heightens sensitivities throughout the world to the unrelenting, legalized racial discrimination in South Africa. Not onlydoes he dramatically portray the exploitation of native black people in a country where they have always been the majority, but he also creates a hopeful view of bringing change about through compassion and empowerment rather than through violence. He presents this vision at a time when the issue was unpopular with white people in many nations and through a story that is more revelatory than shocking or inflammatory. Stephen Kumalo clearly represents the native black South African from a traditional tribal community, specifically a Zulu tradition. He has the naiveté of the humble country parson with little worldly experience out of his familiar environment. Some literary critics would call him the suffering hero: He must experience suffering before he attains a complete awareness of life and makes the most of his talent and creativity. Even his first name recalls the Christian saint who underwent martyrdom through suffering. Stephen is not without faults. He has his share of pride (as first seen when he boards the train and pretends to be someone of importance) and even a measure of quick anger (as seen with Gertrude, Absalom, and John). As the story begins, Stephen’s attitude toward the socio-political situation around him is somewhat detached. James Jarvis, too, is revealed through his words and actions. The readers suffer with him through the tragedy of his son’s death and learn that he is very human in his own grief and suffering, yet not quick to vengeance or retaliation.
Conference or Workshop Item