Cry, the Beloved Country
by Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country Politics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
— It suited the white man to break the tribe, [Msimangu] continues gravely. But it has not suited him to build something in the place of what is broken. I have pondered this for many hours and I must speak it, for it is the truth for me. They are not all so. There are some white men who give their lives to build up what is broken.
— But they are not enough, he said. They are afraid, that is the truth. It is fear that rules this land. (1.5.60-1)
Cry, the Beloved Country lays out a strong vision of what is wrong with South Africa: white people came in and broke up "the tribe." But they haven't given the black communities of southern Africa any kind of social, political, or economic opportunities to replace the traditional options these groups have lost. We talk a bit about some of the issues with Paton's way of talking about the tribe in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory." Here, we want to ask: what kinds of new opportunities do you think Paton has in mind to rebuild the lost tribe? What does he seem to envision replacing "what is broken"?
— That is a pity, says Msimangu. I am not a man for segregation, but it is a pity that we are not apart. They run trams from the centre of the city, and part is for Europeans and part for us. But we are often thrown off the trams by young hooligans. And out hooligans are ready for trouble too. — But the authorities, do they allow that? — They do not. But they cannot watch every tram. And if a trouble develops, who can find how it began and who will tell the truth? It is a pity we are not apart. (1.6.2-4)
In our "In a Nutshell" section, we mention that Cry, the Beloved Country was published in 1948, the same year that the Afrikaner National Party declared its official policy of apartheid? So it was written primarily in 1946, before this party chose the term in apartheid. We wonder, in the aftermath of the beginning of apartheid, if Paton would have chosen to give Msimangu this line that "It is a pity we are not apart." The term "apart" takes on this horrible, violent meaning in the context of apartheid that we do not think Msimangu means to suggest here. What do you think he means? Does Msimangu want some mild form of segregation?
The fear in [Gertrude's] eyes is unmistakable. Now she will reveal herself, but his anger masters him, and he does not wait for it.
— You have shamed us, he says in a low voice, not wishing to make it known to the world. A liquor seller, a prostitute with a child, and you do not know where it is? Your brother a priest. How could you do this to us?
She looks at him sullenly, like an animal that is tormented.
— I have come to take you back. She falls on to the floor and cries; her cries become louder and louder, she has no shame. (1.6.55-9)
All of the narrator's descriptions of Gertrude in this passage imply some kind of sketchy gender politics. So Kumalo yells at Gertrude that she has shamed him, and she looks at him "like an animal." Even worse, when Kumalo demands that she come back to Ndotsheni with him, Gertrude actually falls to the floor crying.
The novel says that "she has no shame," but we feel like she has no self-esteem. Kumalo scolds Gertrude like a child, emphasizing what he thinks she has done wrong. He shows very little sympathy for the things in her life that may have brought her to prostitution. And honestly, it's a little frustrating, since most of this book is about gaining our sympathy for Absalom, who actually killed someone. Why does Cry, the Beloved Country show so comparatively little sympathy for Gertrude?