Absalom - Wikipedia
The relationship between Reverend Stephen Kumalo and James Jarvis Johannesburg to care for his sick sister, the Reverend learns of Absalom's crime. The parson, Stephen Kumalo, tries to sort through his fears and feelings for the father-son relationships in so many books and movies somehow resolve Though brief, the interaction between Absalom and his father is. Absalom according to the Hebrew Bible, was the third son of David, King of Israel with Maacah, Valley of Jehoshaphat, Jerusalem, which has no connection to biblical Absalom. Hushai convinced Absalom to ignore Ahithophel's advice to attack his father Absalom was the name of Stephen Kumalo's son in the novel.
This gave David critical time to prepare his own troops for the battle. The Battle of Ephraim's Wood[ edit ] A fateful battle was fought in the Wood of Ephraim the name suggests a locality west of the Jordan and Absalom's army was completely routed.
He was discovered there still alive by one of David's men, who reported this to Joabthe king's commander. Joab, accustomed to avenging himself, took this opportunity to even the score with Absalom. Killing Absalom was against David's explicit command, "Beware that none touch the young man Absalom". Joab killed Absalom with three darts through the heart. When David heard that Absalom was killed, although not how he was killed, he greatly sorrowed. O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!
Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! An ancient monument in the Kidron Valley near the Old City of Jerusalem, known as the Tomb of Absalom or Absalom's Pillar and traditionally identified as the monument of the biblical narrative, is now dated by modern archeologists to the first century AD.
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Absalom was the name of Stephen Kumalo's son in the novel. Like the historical Absalom, Absalom Kumalo was at odds with his father, the two fighting a moral and ethical battle of sorts over the course of some of the novel's most important events. Absalom kills and murders a man, and also meets an untimely death.
Ender's Shadow references the story of Absalom and King David's lament. Bean, as he sends his soldiers on a suicide mission to destroy the Buggers, says to them, "O my son Absalom. My son, my son Absalom.
Would God I could die for thee, O Absalom, my son. For example, Msimangu explains to him the politics of the bus boycott as well as the role of John Kumalo; he opens the eyes of Kumalo to the life that women, like Absalom's girlfriend and Gertrude, lead; he also has a wider understanding of the change occurring in South Africa—an understanding not unlike that of Arthur Jarvis.
At the end, he has decided to give up all worldly goods and withdraw to an ascetic life. In doing so, he gives Stephen his life savings. This money not only happily replenishes all that Stephen had to use for the journey, but puts Stephen ahead. Msimangu, as a guide, is humble, generous, and wise.
He is not unbelievably good because, as he admits, God touched him and that's all. At each stage of Stephen's search he handles details, gains information, and leads him to the next stage. He brings him to trial and supports him throughout. Then, with the gift of the money, he is gone from the story though remembered in the prayers of Stephen.
Being a foreigner, Father Vincent portrays the European who is sympathetic to the plight of South Africa. He helps Stephen out with prayer and diverts his thoughts onto the beauty of the land.
When Stephen finds his son in prison and sees that he needs a lawyer, he asks Father Vincent for help. Father Vincent goes to the best lawyer for the job—Mr. Themes Nature and Its Meaning The tone of the novel, set from the first paragraph, is like a parable told of a distant place of beauty.
Yet within that idyllic setting something is going horribly wrong. By the end of the second paragraph, the tone has changed to show that nature's lush greenness is actually fragile and interdependent with humans. Paton's story contains hope that a balance can be regained by raising awareness about the state of things so that the "natives" will have hope and men like Jarvis will make concessions so as to help them help themselves.
It is a hope that the children will not care so much for ownership of the land or things, but for the beauty of the land and for each other. From the start of Stephen Kumalo's journey to retrieve his family from Johannesburg, there is the unsettling presence of the land. Some critics have said that the land itself is a character in the novel whose pit of illness is the city. First, the land is described as lovely grass and hills, but then attention is drawn to the jarring effect of the road cutting through them.
Next, as Kumalo journeys towards the city, the scars of industry are more pervasive as are the burdens on his people. Finally, the city is all noise and pollution and people. Africa is a sick person needing rescue from all those who depend upon it.
Like Gertrude, the ill sister Stephen searches for, Africa is calling for someone to rejuvenate it. However, though Jarvis begins by sending an expert, Mr.
The Family and Identity
Letsitsi, the reader can only hope that the land will have more success than Gertrude. Clearly, the land's health or illness is isomorphic, that is having similar appearance, to the healthy state of the tribe and the nation. The land is the only concern of the tribal leader since most of his people have left for the city. The land is a common conversational topic amongst black and white farmers who are concerned at the growing length of time between rains. There is something very wrong in Africa, and people feel it.
The land is ill and society seems to be out of order with itself. Unfortunately, the people decide to worsen things by increasing the burden on the majority of its population—the non-whites—and by doing little to restore the vitality of the withering beauty of the land.
Fear Fear, the emotion that never seems to diminish throughout the novel, is ever present to Stephen. He fears for the land, for his son, for Jarvis, for all he sees in the city. Everyday a new fear arises and the greatest is that his faith is somehow pointless. This fear is a very important element at a crucial juncture in the novel.
At the Mission House they have all just heard the news report of Arthur's death, but it is yet unknown who the culprit is. A sense of foreboding descends and Kumalo says privately to Msimangu, "Here in my heart there is nothing but fear…. Chapter twelve opens, "Have no doubt it is fear in the land," and the reader is allowed to know this because Paton provides bits of conversations of white people.
The whites fear the blacks, and Kumalo fears that his son may be the one who killed Arthur Jarvis, thus setting off the most recent wave of hysterical paranoia in the city. Then there is the obvious fear of the white man's law and the impossibility of Absalom escaping death. At the end of the novel, Paton lays all his cards on the table.
Through Kumalo he suggests that the only reason Africa is not happy and healthy is fear. It is because people, white and black, are afraid of Kumalo and his wife, the young demonstrator, and Msimangu—afraid that such people would walk upright in the land, might be "free to use the fruits of the land," might sing Nkosi Sikeleli' iAfrika, God bless Africa.
Race and Racism James Jarvis allows the reader the best insight into race relations in South Africa when he reads his son's work. In contrast to Arthur's sensitive theories is the more general outcry over the crime of Absalom.
Arthur gives a reason for both the poor state of race relations and general hysteria. In the manuscript Arthur was working on at the time of the crime, Jarvis reads, "The truth is that our civilization is not Christian; it is a tragic compound of great ideal and fearful practice, of high assurance and desperate anxiety, of loving charity and fearful clutching of possessions. Arthur's suggested solution, one that Mr. Letsitsi would appreciate, was the creation of the South African.
Indeed, Arthur felt that the biggest problem was that the English bore English, the Afrikaners more Afrikaners, and the natives were general labor.
To get around this, a unified South Africa would have to be created. Letsitsi, on the other side, was working for Africa too—thus he sang the yet little known an-them Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. The political rhetoric and the newspapers are not so logical or sober as the writings of Arthur Jarvis. Instead, as the pressure on the state increases due to the migration of blacks from the broken tribes to the city, the whites call for more separation and more exploitation.
An effect of this pressure is visible in the hysterical pronouncements made in response to Absalom's crime in chapter twelve. People call for absolute separation by the division of Africa into white and black areas. Others call for the stricter enforcement of pass laws. Well-meaning whites seek to provide more money for education in hopes that this will give blacks more positive goals, thus preventing future crimes. However, none cry for integration, none call for the difficult investigations into the causes of South Africa's woes.
Such causes, as Arthur hints, are too deep to be easy. Consequent to these calls, the political party favoring more separation was gaining adherents. In this way, the book prophesied the victory of the National Party. In fact, all throughout the book, the majority of whites are not like Arthur or his father but like Mr. Harrison, who sees the natives as "savage" and not as people with complex personalities and problems like the struggling Kumalo, the intelligent Msimangu, or the motherly Mrs.
Topics for Further Study Research the system of apartheid. Find out what the system meant legally as well as culturally and then try to find out the justifications, moral and ethical, for its existence. In what ways was it like Jim Crowism in the American South? In what ways did it differ? Among other similarities, consider to what extent both works are examples of a white sympathizer exploiting black oppression or how they celebrate the role of the white outsider to raise awareness of the downtrodden other.
Research the international politics ofespecially any tensions between the United Nations ' Declaration of Human Rights and the installation of Apartheid in South Africa. In the last sections of the novel there is a great deal of concern about the environment. Research the problems caused by population displacement and refugee migration in Africa. What is the condition of the environment in South Africa today?
Has the land been replenished or has the situation worsened?
- South Africa: Paton's beloved country
Find out what is going on in South Africa today and consider the place of Paton's novel now that Apartheid has been dismantled. Style Point of View Paton tells his story as if from a dream. The opening, "There is," implies the story is happening right now, though it is not. The use of the present tense makes the story seem distant, yet possible.
The story is a third person narrative. The narrator, however, is not omniscient all-knowing —only giving necessary information or as much as would be known in the situation.
That is, readers do not ever know a great deal about any of the characters, only how they behave given the plot of the story. The words used to tell this story are reminiscent of Biblical language.
The prose is simple and intermixed with religious intonations and references.
This is due both to the main characters being Anglican clergymen but also because South Africa, as a Christian nation, might best understand itself represented in a parable fashion. Taking this into account adds even more significance to the comments of Arthur Jarvis as well as the overall complex self-reflection of the novel. The novel is aware of itself as novel—as a story being told far from Africa about the affairs of Africa.
This distance is also important to the point of view; it may be third person but it is also written far away from the scenes that the author describes. Cry, the Beloved Country was popular, in fact, abroad before it was even known at home. Dialect The diction of the novel is influenced by the Zulu and Xosa tongues—not surprisingly as the novel takes place amongst members of those peoples colonized by speakers of the English language.
Curious phrases from those languages are rendered into English to sound beautiful yet medieval. For example, women who are mature are greeted as "mother"; at parting they say, "go well, stay well" or just "stay well. Then again, some critics of the s remarked that Paton was a bit too oldfashioned and sentimental for their taste. Another example of native-influenced syntax is the way simple words are used and repeated: Here in my heart there is nothing but fear.
To capture emotion in words effectively demands simplicity, repetition, and terse exchanges between characters. Thus, rather than come off as patronizing, Paton accomplished emotional density by staying simple and adopting local phrases. Apostrophe, Aphorism, and Parallelism Paton's writing has much in common with the style typical of Hebrew poetry.
For this reason, Cry, the Beloved Country was often said to be quasi-Biblical. Three rhetorical devices found both in the Bible and in Paton's novel are apostrophe, aphorism, and parallelism. For an example of the apostrophe, one need go only so far as the title, taken from a passage within the text.
This technique involves the direct address of the inanimate for sympathy or aid. The passage which gives us the title begins, "Cry, the beloved country for the unborn child. The second device is aphorism. An aphorism is the use of a wise saying. This technique is employed often in the speech of Msimangu. For example, "It suited the white man to break the tribe … but it has not suited him to build something in the place of what is broken.
The third technique occurs when Msimangu gives a sermon in chapter thirteen and the narrator attempts to describe his incredible voice. The narrator does this by a parallelism wherein an object in this case, Msimangu's voice is related to many things instead of being defined: The voice shook and beat and trembled, not as the voice of an old man shakes and beats and trembles, but as a deep hollow bell when struck….
With these serial phrases, the narrator embellishes the power of the voice by hypothesizing what else the voice does or what else the voice is like. The voice is related to things which the reader already knows to be valuable like "gold" and "love. Dramatic Irony Dramatic irony is a moment of high drama that occurs when at least one character is lacking information known to the reader. Paton employs this technique expertly in chapter twenty-five when, by chance, Kumalo and Jarvis meet.
Jarvis has no idea who the black clergyman is. The two fathers meet at Barbara Smith 's on a day when the court is not in session. Kumalo is looking for Sibeko's daughter who was rumored to have worked there. It is on this errand for Sibeko that Stephen finds the father of his son's victim. Jarvis, however, sees only a poor, old, black clergyman. For the reader, as for Stephen, this is a highly charged encounter precisely because one of the participants is unaware of the identity of the other.
The economies of nations directly involved in the war were still recovering and the United States Congress voted for the implementation of the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Europe. Soviet forces blockaded access to Berlin on June 24, In a non-violent act to ignore the blockade, the United States and Britain countered with a great airlift of 4, tons of food and necessities per day until the Soviets allowed normal transit to return on September 30, At home, this " cold war " fueled political suspicion by the formation of the "Un-American Activities Committee.
The most famous case before this committee involved Alger Hiss. The case is still controversial today though Hiss is dead and Moscow has said he was never a spy. As the two superpowers began their arms race, the colonies of the British empire began to struggle for independence. India struggled free with the help of Mahatma Gandhi, who was once a resident and prisoner of South Africa. InGandhi was assassinated by those resentful of his allowance of partition with Pakistan.
Other newly independent nations included Burma and Israel. It was at this time that the descendants of early Dutch speaking settlers began to refer to themselves as Afrikaners, their dialect as Afrikaans, and their party as the Afrikaner Nationalists.
Yet another force in South Africa in was the African population that outnumbered the whites, were still largely tribal in their political makeup, and lived in rural communities. However, a population shift was occurring that mirrored population shifts everywhere—away from the traditional rural community to the city. In South Africa, due to the dramatic expansions of mining and industry in general, that meant a shift to Johannesburg.
This large city was built upon the mining fields where gold had been discovered in The Afrikaner Nationalists ruled South Africa from until In that year, the liberal agenda of men like Jan H. Hofmeyr took over and people began to have hope that South Africa would be a more equitable and just society. After the war there was an even greater influx of Africans into the cities and into Johannesburg.
As that novel showed, there were two sides to South Africa in On one side were the Africans struggling to carve out a living in shanty towns or in rural areas whose soil was depleted.
White men like Arthur Jarvis were awakening to the problems that inequality had created and joined with other whites to do what was possible to improve the situation of the natives. On the other side, the influx of people and the increase in crime in the city created a degree of paranoia amongst the enfranchised citizens.
Thus in the election year ofafter the death of Hofmeyr, the Afrikaner Nationalists were voted back to power because they promised to restore order. Inthe Afrikaner Nationalists began a system of government called apartheid. This system was similar in many ways to Jim Crow discrimination policies in America against African Americans. However, one very important difference was that it was a national policy legally discriminating on the basis of race.
Under this system native Africans lived in designated areas and were required to carry "passes" and identity papers on them at all times. The inability to provide an enquiring official with one's papers meant jail or fines. These passes said where the individual could go. Generally, the system of apartheid aimed to keep the nonwhite people living under South African rule a disciplined pool of workers. Thus they did not tolerate dissent or organization into labor unions or political parties.
They did so by imprisoning men like Nelson Mandela and Steven Biko for crimes against the state. Recently, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, resumed his political place as head of the African National Congressand was elected President of South Africa.
Inhe signed a new constitution for the Republic of South Africa. Winning the national election, the National Party institutes a system of apartheid, officially segregating the black majority from the white minority. Nelson Mandela, having served twenty-seven years in prison, is sworn in as the President of South Africa in In he signs the new Constitution which, among other things, guarantees equal treat ment before the law for all citizens—black or white.
Those in opposition to Apartheid policies take hope in a brighter future by singing Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. The British Empire is crumbling as former colonies declare independence. The Soviet Union has collapsed and its republics have declared independence. Critical Overview The critical reputation of Cry, the Beloved Country in the international community has been overwhelmingly positive. Alan Paton's novel, both written and submitted to publishers while on a tour, received much praise the moment it was released.
Cry, the Beloved Country
It sold out on its first day of appearance and entered its sixth print run by the end of the year. Back home in South Africa, however, the newly independent Paton was not so warmly embraced. The novel was critical of the new regime and Afrikaners because of their narrow vision and fear-ridden pride. Conversely, black South Africans could never forgive Paton for being a white and could never see the book as anything but a parable written by a white man—sympathetic though he was.
The most positive reviewer from this camp was Dennis Brutusa poet who was a prison inmate with Nelson Mandela. Brutus attributed a new sort of writing in South Africa to Paton and his novel. Paton, said Brutus, set in motion a writing that viewed apartheid critically in such a way as to move people and awaken them to our blight of inhumanity.
Unfortunately, Brutus's valuation was retrospective as well as a minority opinion. Martin Tucker, in his book Africa in Modern Literature, said that few writers were indebted to Paton. Though the first print run was small, the critics picked up the novel and sounded its triumph. They applauded the new sense of lyricism which Paton had brought English literature by the adoption of the Zulu and Xosa syntax. They praised the breadth of the subject matter yet simple style of the book.
While still positive, there were those critics who seemed to miss the point of the novel. One example was Harold C. Gardiner's review in which he says, "the story is preeminently one of individuals.
There are no sweeping and grandiose statements about 'the race problem. InSheridan Baker wrote an interpretive article which found that the geography of Paton's story was not only symbolic but that it was the same type of Christian allegory to be found in Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress and Dante's Divine Comedy. This would not have been so bad, says Edward Callahan in his book, but Baker used his idea about Paton's work in an educational packet wherein children were instructed by Baker to make ludicrous associations in the novel.
Fortunately, the article by Harry A. Gailey entitled "Sheridan Baker's 'Paton's Beloved Country,'" in which Gailey says that the interpretation of Baker is textually baseless, is also included in the anthology of Baker. A more rational approach to the novel was close by. Edmund Fuller wrote glowingly of the novel in his Man in Modern Fiction.
There he wrote that Cry, the Beloved Country "is a great and dramatic novel because Alan Paton, in addition to his skill of workmanship sees with clear eyes both good and evil, differentiates them, pitches them in conflict with each other, and takes sides. Most criticism of the book simply sides with Paton due to the political tension of the work. In fact, there is little variation amongst the reviewers when it comes to what it is in the novel which deserves praise.
Mostly, it was felt that the quasi-Biblical language of the novel was an emotional catalyst that helped to place the reader on the side of the Kumalos and only secondarily with the Jarvis family. Another review by Myron Matlaw in Arcadia simply sums up the critical view of Paton: A Novel of South Africa, the view is taken that the book is a classic because of its endurance. After forty years and two movies, Paton's novel is still widely read.
He also cites the work as having a universal appeal because of its poetic language and its theme of human responsibility. The setting for the novel, adds Callan, has changed incredibly in that span of time but he makes no prediction about how this will affect the reception of the work.
Criticism Sharon Cumberland In the following essay, Cumberland, an assistant professor at Seattle University, asserts that although Cry, the Beloved Country was written by a white man, it successfully and artistically presents in human terms the plight of native African people suffering under apartheid. Cry, the Beloved Country made a tremendous impact on the international community when it was first published in by showing, in human terms, the effects of apartheid on its victims.
Once known as Boers, these Afrikaaners instituted a system of rigid segregation between the black tribal people and the white settlers. White supremacy allowed the Afrikaaners and white people of other nationalities to become wealthy on the natural resources in South Africa, using tribal people for cheap labor.
The evil consequences of the apartheid system in South Africa were widely understood as political phenomena in Yet Alan Paton evoked the dilemma of tribal people so movingly that no one who read his novel could fail to understand from an emotional point of view the terrible injustices built into the legal system—a system which held sway in South Africa until Though Cry, the Beloved Country stands alone as a compelling plot with memorable characters, it is a book which needs to be placed in historical context to achieve its full impact.
What Do I Read Next? First published inDays: She was the wife of Joe Slovo, leader of the Communist Party in South Africa, and one of the first to be imprisoned during the crackdown of the s. After her release, she continued to oppose the government until a letter bomb killed her in At the end of Beloved Country, Kumalo climbs Ngela, the great hill at Carisbrooke, to pray for his son, who is to be executed at dawn. When I request to be taken up to the same spot, Pereira stops the tiny train, and bids me follow him up a steep incline and through a hefty barbed wire fence.
Thereafter he guides me on a strenuous walk up the side of the hill, past aloe bushes, coral trees, reed grass and dolerite outcrops, to the top where Kumalo waits for the sun to come up, at which time he knows that his son is hanged. It is a beautiful view, and in the distance you can see the mountains of Ingeli and East Griqualand behind the lush valleys. In the silence you can hear the children's cries from the school in Carisbrooke village; their schoolroom was founded in the remnants of the buildings that London Films constructed for the Zoltan Korda production in of Cry, the Beloved Country.
The steep descent is even more hair-raising than the climb; there is no path, and nothing to hold on to. Miraculously, neither of us twists an ankle, and I get back to the train carriage safely, ready to relax, happy to be intact. But as the train sets off on its journey to Ixopo, I realise that my relief is premature.
The line, which hasn't been used for some weeks, has become overgrown. Julian stands at the front of the train with a giant chainsaw, wildly hacking at bracken and branches that come sweeping towards us as the tiny train approaches its top speed of about 10mph.
It doesn't sound fast unless you've got a tree branch the size of your arm rushing towards your solar plexus. Jonathan Paton takes a swipe across the legs with a nettle bush, which rips off his shoe, and I get lashed by a few stray branches around the head.
Then there is a yell of warning as a huge branch of rough gorse heads towards us. I lie flat on my front, but Jonathan is too slow, and cries out as he tries to avoid the sharp thicket.
After the hazard has passed, he inspects his hand. The gorse has drawn blood in four or five places. It's hardly life-threatening, but it may not be to everybody's taste as a day trip. I'm enjoying myself, though - this is about as far from a pasteurised, sanitised tourist trip as you can imagine. By the time we pull in to Ixopo, about an hour and a half later, we are beaten, slightly bloody, but unbowed.
The next part of my journey involved visiting Johannesburg, where Kumalo ends up in a mission house at the end of his much longer, and possibly less hazardous, train journey.
Pietermaritzburg, like the road to Carisbrooke, is no longer the place that he mythologises both in fiction and memoir as "the beautiful city", but it has pleasant enough Victorian architecture. After Pietermaritzburg, I drive through the Drakensberg Mountains, one of the most stunning journeys I've ever made, particularly the stretch from my hotel near Winterton off the main N3 road, via the smaller Highway 74 through to Harrismith.
The swooping valleys, vast castle-like mountains and gorgeous lakes are spectacular and unique. This adds a few miles to the journey to Jo'burg, but it's worth the diversion. Kumalo arrives in Johannesburg and stays at a mission in what was then the black slum of Sophiatown.