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Cry the Beloved Country
The major conflict in the novel, Cry the Beloved Country, is an inner uncertainty within the characters. The author, Alan Paton, shows this inner conflict from two perspectives; the Europeans and the Native South Africans. These two groups also have inconsistencies in their conscious to resolve.
The black Natives are struggling between tradition and the new world. The Natives are forfeiting their old values as they progress towards the mode of the big city life. The Europeans are also confused. Many Europeans want to help the Natives, but are faced with following old tradition. Conventionally, these two groups should live independently. The changing of customs and values created apprehension and fear for both groups of people.
Steven Kumalo, a Native priest, faced inner conflicts throughout the book. Kumalo had dreams of restoring the tribe and reuniting his family. He received a letter telling him his sister was ill in Johannesburg. Steven overcomes his fears of the big city and attempts to reunite his broken family. Steven hoped to find his sister Gertrude, brother John, and son Absalom. Each of these characters rejected their old values. His brother, John, was a corrupt politician. Kumaloís sister, Gertrude, was a prostitute. Absalom, Stephenís son, killed Arthur Jarvis. Kumalo struggled with feelings about his family members. He continued to encounter the clash of two different worlds affecting their lives.
The Europeans were caught between tradition and the modernistic ways. The Europeans had been taught they were a superior race. Many Europeans doubted their traditional views and lifestyles. During the Nativeís bus boycott, a few Europeans voluntarily drove the Natives so they did not have to walk. The old routine customs were questioned, and challenged. In this case, the rules were ignored.
Customs were also ignored during Absalomís trial. Absalom Kumalo, Stephenís son, was found guilty of murdering Arthur Jarvis. Absalomís white friend broke the color line while leaving the courtroom. Carmichael ran to help Stephen who was about to collapse from devastating grief for his son. Helping a friend, rather than obeying tradition was Carmichaelís response to this inner conflict.
Jarvis and Kumalo began interacting with each other when they returned to Natal. Mr. Jarvisís grandson visited Stephenís home a few times before returning to Johannesburg. Kumalo taught the young boy the Native Zulu language. The boy was a respectful and attentive student. Mr. Jarvisís grandson challenged the old ways and accepted his teacher. It was much easier for the younger generations to accept the challenges of change. The younger generations had different views about racial issues than their parents. Mr. Kumalo hoped the younger generations would prosper and live peacefully.
James Jarvis and Stephen Kumalo returned to their homes in Natal. A deadly drought had devastated the land. Mr. Kumalo turned to tradition for an end to the drought. He visited the tribal chief for help. The chief told Kumalo there is nothing to be done and they will pray for rain.
Stephen Kumalo and many others viewed the chief as just a figurehead. Kumaloís trip to Johannesburg taught him to accept new ways and ideas. Stephen Kumalo questioned traditional solutions to the current problems in his land.
James Jarvis returned to help the Native tribal community. He hired a new teacher for the school. The teacher informed the Natives of new farming methods. The new knowledge helped the natives through the drought. Mr. Jarvis also gave the Natives milk for the young children until they could get enough of their own. He also offered to build Stephen a new church.
Jarvis ignored belief and custom to help people in need, regardless of their skin color. Alan Patonís novel presents the personal conflict of Jarvis and Kumalo. Through their lives, the larger conflict between the races in South Africa and for all humanity is presented by this wonderful author.
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Cry, the Beloved Country, Absalom, English-language films, Lost in the Stars
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