The novel Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

History is filled with instances in which an outside culture invades an occupied area and dominates the native culture. As these invaders attempt to destroy the native civilization, permanent scars are left on the spirits and hopes of those oppressed. When oppressors rule another culture, that culture seems to loss vital components of their heritage. Feelings of confusion and worthlessness arise as those oppressed are stripped of the very necessities of their culture. For example, in North America the Native Americans were invaded and controlled by European settlers.

Their sacred homeland as stolen and they were forced to leave without resistance. Similarly, Britain invaded India, and installed government and law enforcement on the native Indian society. Another culture that colonized already existing civilizations was the Roman Empire, which dominated and controlled any culture it could. The result was many Roman customs invaded cultures all over present day Europe. Likewise, the novel Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, demonstrates how deeply racial injustice wounds the people and the land of South Africa.

Through multiple main characters, Paton, xemplifies the pain, suffering, and negative consequences of racial oppression. The first character, Absalom Kumalo, turns to theft and murder as result of his frustrations in Johannesburg. Also in Johannesburg, Gertrude turns to prostitution because of the tensions and extreme poverty she encounters. These characters show that because of injustices in South Africa they must resort to poor judgment to compensate for the racial oppression. On the other hand, Steven Kumalo, a native parson, and James Jarvis, a white landowner, are torn apart by social intolerance and the murder of Arthur Jarvis.

However, they are able to try to overcome racial injustice by crossing the racial boundaries. Through powerful enlightenment these two men are able to unite in an effort to mend the broken racial relations in South Africa. Racial oppression was the main reason native crime was such a big problem in Johannesburg. The native culture used crime and prostitution as an outlet for the feelings of frustration from being oppressed. The reason it was socially acceptable to posses racial views was because of the Apartheid government.

In 1948 the National Party took control of South Africa and made Apartheid, a policy of racial segregation a national olitical administration. (Alteach, pg. 1) This meant that already existing racial attitudes within South Africa were now legal and justifiable. Natives were denied to be part of any national government positions, which meant they had no say in the laws that were passed. Government therefor could pass any type of law even if it was unfair to the native culture. These feelings of inferiority and indifference made natives feel like worthless human beings.

The same could be said for the native people of India when Great Britain forced their laws on to the people. Britain took control of their government nd made all the important decisions for them. Britain forced farmers to grow cotton for the mother country and in return the farmers got no compensation. In turn Indians felt like they were being used and abused for their natural commodities. (Volume Library,pg. 1015) Since natives in South Africa were made to feel like foreigners in their own homeland they responded in the only way they could, with violence.

Taking their aggression out in acts of violence made the dominate white culture fear for their safety. We shall always have native crime to fear until the native people of this country have orthy purposes to inspire them and worthy goals to work for. For it is only because they see neither purpose nor goal that they turn to drink and crime and prostitution. Which do we prefer, a law-abiding, industrious and purposeful native people or a lawless, idle and purposeless people? The truth is that we do not know, for we fear them both. (Paton, pg. 07) This quote proves that the dominate culture doesnt know how to treat the native culture. They fear the natives either way, which shows how deep their racism runs for the native culture. White culture failed to realize that the racial oppression they imposed n the natives was the reason natives acted out in violence. Absalom Kumalo committed crime after crime because he had no direction or goals to pursue. He left his home in Ndotsheni to find work and happiness in Johannesburg. Instead what he found was despair and the realization that in Johannesburg natives are second class human beings.

Why did you carry a revolver? For safety This Johannesburg is a dangerous place, a man never knows when he will be attacked. (Paton, pg. 130) Here Absalom tells his father that he must resort to violence because racial tensions are so heavy in Johannesburg. Gertrude also leaves her home to search for her missing husband in Johannesburg. What she finds, however, is prostitution and alcohol her only source of income. And you helped her with her trade? I had to have money for the child. (Paton,pg. 60) This quote is where Gertrude tells her brother, Steven that she had to sell liquor to survive.

These measures had to be taken by both to insure their livelihood, since nothing else was available for them. Not only were the native people of South Africa disrupted because of racial oppression, but the land was too. The landscape is another aspect of South Africa that is neglected as a result of oppression. The book describes the land as beautiful and bountiful in South Africa. Paton goes into great detail at the beginning of the novel about the splendor of the land.

These hills are grass covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. Paton, pg. 33) Yet, with all the beauty of the land there are still things being done to it that are destructive. One of these things is all the mining for gold and other natural resources. Are these the mines, those with flat hills in the distance? That is the rock out f the mines, umfundisi. The gold has been taken out of it. (Paton, pg. 46) The Apartheid government makes sure that they enjoy all the profit of these mines at the expense of native labor. Natives get paid very little money for working hard to discover gold, while others make great profits.

The same can be said for American companies that find immigrant workers to work in the factories. These companies know that they can get away with paying low wages to get the work done and then sell for high profits. (Immigrant worker,pg. 3) When more gold is discovered as seen in chapter 23, the Stock Exchange is extremely happy. Shares go up guaranteeing more money for shareholders, but less money for the workers. Since the natives hardly have enough money to eat they surely dont have enough money to buy shares.

In the end the land is being stripped of its natural resources and the native people are still suffering. Another aspect of the land that is being destroyed is the farm land. The cause is native people not taking care of the land because it requires time and money. The land in Ndotsheni has turned barren and the soil is eroding. James Jarvis blames this on uneducated native farmers and not enough labor. he fields were eroded and barren each new field extended the devastation. Something might have been done, if these people had only learned how to fight erosion…. he people were ignorant and knew nothing about farming methods. (Paton, pg. 162) The reason the natives knew nothing about farming was because they only farmed for food. They didnt understand the techniques of farming because it cost money to make sure the land was treated properly.

Also people would leave to country environment to go find work in the cities. It meant that there wasnt enough hands to do all the necessary work to revent the destruction to the land. The work was done my old men and women, and when the grown men came back from the mines and towns, they sat in the sun and drank their liquor. Paton,pg. 163) Over all the land was being abused because no one provided the money or the necessary means of preventing erosion and drought. When the Native Americans were removed from the lands they were familiar with, they had to discover new methods of survival. (The Volume Library,pg 1234) This meant they had to learn a different environment and devise new ways to take care of it. After the Native Americans left heir homelands the Europeans were oblivious to the methods of taking care of the land.

In the same ways the natives in the land of South Africa had no way of knowing how to take care of their land. The only effective way of helping some of the problems caused by racial oppression is to cross racial boundaries. Steven Kumalo and James Jarvis try to mend the broken racial relations in South Africa by putting down their fears and crossing racial boundaries. After learning that his son Arthur had been murdered by a native, James Jarvis is heartbroken. He begins to read his sons writings and learns new things about his son.

Leave a Comment