Cry, the Beloved Country
How we cite our quotes:
From Ixopo the toy train climbs up into other hills, the green rolling hills of Lufafa, Eastwolds, Donnybrook. From Donnybrook the broad-gauge runs to the great valley of the Umkomaas. Here the tribes live, and the soil is sick, almost beyond healing. Up out of the valley it climbs, past Hemu-hemu to Elandskop. Down the long valley of the Umsindusi, past Edendale and the black slums to Pietermaritzburg, the lovely city. Change here to the greatest train of all, the train for Johannesburg. Here is a white man's wonder, a train that has no engine, only an iron cage on its head, taking power from metal ropes stretched out above. (1.4.1)
As Kumalo travels by train, he comes to see a cross-section of different towns and cities in South Africa. He sees barren places and slums before he reaches Johannesburg. But in addition to being impressed by the different places in South Africa, he is also struck by the technologies that he sees. He appears to be thinking of the train to Johannesburg as "a white man's wonder." In what sense does this technology of transportation belong to the "white man"? What are some of the political implications of this assumption that it is primarily the "white man" who controls and understands the technology that unites the South African nation?
Tixo, watch over me, he says to himself. Tixo, watch over me. (1.4.27)
Kumalo often uses this word Tixo for God, which Paton explains in his glossary in this way:
I rejected the Zulu word for the Great Spirit as too long and difficult. This is the Xosa world. It is also difficult to pronounce, but may be pronounced "Teeko," the "o" being midway the "o" in "pot" and the "o" of "born." (Glossary)
Paton's choices here indicate his own power as an author. Paton identifies an audience here, since he assumes it will be an audience of people unfamiliar with both Zulu and Xosa, who won't want to be bothered with any words that are "too long and difficult." He wants to give us the feeling of something exotic and foreign-sounding that we won't find too challenging, so he chooses a word for God, Tixo, that he admits his character Kumalo would probably not use. What do you think of the choices Paton makes here? If you were writing a novel about a culture not your own, would you make similar word choices?
So they walked till they came to Claremont and Kumalo was shocked by its shabbiness and dirtiness, and the closeness of the houses, and the filth in the streets.
— Do you see that woman, my friend?
— I see her.
— She is one of the queens, the liquor sellers. They say she is one of the richest of our people in Johannesburg. (1.6.7-10)
Obviously, Msimangu and Kumalo do not approve of this illegal alcohol trade among women in Johannesburg. But think about it: these "queens, the liquor sellers," finally have an opportunity to make some money on their own, and to live outside of these relatively traditional family structures that men like Kumalo assume they should adopt. Yes, what they are doing is technically illegal. But we can sympathize with the desire among these women to get a little power of their own, when they seem to have so little authority in other parts of Cry, the Beloved Country.