Cry, the Beloved Country
by Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country Theme of Contrasting Regions: The Countryside and Johannesburg
Johannesburg is the biggest city in South Africa. Ndotsheni is a tiny (fictional) village. Johannesburg has a diverse population (even though they are kept segregated). Ndotsheni is primarily Zulu. Johannesburg has lots of job opportunities, especially if you are willing to work on the wrong side of the law. Ndotsheni is primarily a farming village, with one opening for a dedicated priest. These two places could not be more contrasting, and it's clear that Paton favors the moral qualities of the countryside over the excitement of the city.
But even within these contrasting regions, there are strong differences: Johannesburg's black areas are much poorer and more dangerous than its white neighborhoods. And in the countryside, Ndotsheni struggles much more with drought and bad soil than Jarvis's farm High Place does. So even though there are all these grand differences between the country and the city, there are also ongoing contrasts between white and black areas of South Africa in both of these regions in Cry, the Beloved Country.
Questions About Contrasting Regions: The Countryside and Johannesburg
- What specifically does Paton find morally problematic about Johannesburg? Are his criticisms unique to Johannesburg, or would they apply to any other large city?
- While Cry, the Beloved Country generally portrays the countryside as healthier than the city, the countryside is also not perfect. What criticism does the novel offer for Ndotsheni? What problems does Kumalo's home continue to have?
- There are big contrasts between the city and the countryside and between black and white areas of South Africa in this novel. Are there any other kinds of space in the book? Does anything stand outside of these divided regions?
Chew on This
Kumalo's retreat to the mountain to meditate at the end of Cry, the Beloved Country symbolizes a journey to an individual, personal place outside of the novel's grand divisions between black and white and between the city and the countryside. This mountain represents the possibility of a place that is not marked by racial or economic divides.
The big difference between Cry, the Beloved Country's portrayal of Ndotsheni and Johannesburg is that Ndotsheni's difficulties with soil erosion and poverty can be fixed, while Johannesburg's greed and immorality seem built into the fabric of city life and thus cannot be changed.