Cry, the Beloved Country
by Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country Suffering Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
So [the black and white Anglican] priests all talked of the sickness of the land, of the broken tribe and the broken house, of young men and young girls that went away and forgot their customs, and lived loose and idle lives. They talked of young criminal children, and older and more dangerous criminals, of how white Johannesburg was afraid of black crime. […]
— And it is not only the Europeans who are afraid. We are also afraid, right here in Sophiatown. It was not long ago that a gang of these youths attacked one of our own African girls; they took her bag, and her money, and would have raped her too but that people came running out of the houses. (1.5.6-7)
The relationship between suffering and crime is one of the main issues in Cry, the Beloved Country. It's clear that poverty and desperation often drive people to crime, or at least, that's what the novel suggests. And here, in Cry, the Beloved Country, the racism of South Africa's laws encourages a lot of crime specifically within the black community, against both white and black victims.
Racist white people like Mr. Harrison may use these rising crime rates to show that there should be stricter laws clamping down on the rights of black people. But of course, it's precisely because of these stricter laws that there is so much violence in Johannesburg. Paton isn't denying that there is a crime problem in Johannesburg. He is asking his readers to be more open-minded and sympathetic about finding out why there has been so much crime there as people's employment opportunities have been dropping.
Quietly, my child, your mother is by you. Outside there is laughter and jesting, digging and hammering, and calling in languages that I do not know. Quietly, my child, there is a lovely valley where you were born. The water sings over the stones, and the wind cools you. The cattle come down to the river, they stand there under the trees. Quietly my child, oh God make her quiet. God have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. White man, have mercy upon us. (1.9.79)
As this desperate, nameless mother in the Shanty Town worries over her ill child, she sings to the child about the countryside where they came from originally. This vision of the countryside provides a brief relief from the suffering that Paton ties so strongly to Johannesburg and its problems. But why do you think the mother's prayers are to both God and to the "white man"? What mercy might she be looking for from the "white man"?
Outside there is singing, singing round a fire. It is Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika that they sing. God Save Africa. God save this piece of Africa that is my own, delivered in travail from my body, fed from my breast, loved by my heart, because that is the nature of women. Oh, lie quietly, little one. (1.9.87)
This "piece of Africa that is my own" is the infant child of a mother living in poverty in the Shanty Town. In what sense does this child represent Africa? What is "the nature of women" in this passage? What is distinctive about the style of this passage compared to the parts of the novel that focus directly on Kumalo's plot line?