In this essay, my goal
will be to try and explore the ways that Paton uses Fathers and son
relationships in Cry, the beloved Country
to show and represent the race relations at the time in South Africa and how he
uses them to paint us a picture of how it was really like, living in the
country and maybe even what any person living at the time would have
experienced living there.

 

Firstly, there is a
relationship between James Jarvis, a white man, who owns a farm near Ndotsheni,
and his son Arthur Jarvis, who went to Johannesburg as an engineer. These two
have quite a complex and interesting relationship, especially because Arthur is killed while
working in Johannesburg. He is shot dead by Absalom, Stephens sonJO1 .
This means that the two of them haven’t had contact for quite some time after
Arthur left home, and it is now a big shock to James, simply because he loses
the ability to relate and really get to know his son, because he is dead. The
effect of this can be seen when James goes to Johannesburg after his son’s
death and he goes through his son’s writings. Here there is a section in the novel
with some interesting wording. “Jarvis sat in the chair of his son”. Paton
chooses to write it like this instead of just writing “Jarvis sat in his son’s
chair”. This way he puts the emphasis of the sentence on the fact that the
chair belongs to Arthur rather than the chair itself. This symbolises, that
James really hasn’t gotten over his son’s death and still sees everything in
the house as his son’s property and active belongings.  His son had always had a different attitude to
black people, then his father. A major reason for this, is that the farm, which
James Jarvis owns, has black workers on it, so that James is used to and had
grown up with black people working for him and not really with him. Another
reason could be that Arthur is always described as very intelligent and bright,
for example when even Stephen, even though he had never really known Arthur,
says “There was a brightness in him.” Maybe he had the ability to see the
situation from a completely perspective and he managed to form himself a much
more neutral and non-biased opinion.JO2 
This relationship could be interpreted as being supposed to representing the
relationship between the older generation that lives in South Africa, represented
by James Jarvis, which is used having a white oppression of black people, while
the new, younger situation, represented by Arthur Jarvis, is open to new ideas
and concepts and is able to maybe even find a way for the two kinds of people
to live in peace together.

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Next,
there is the relationship between Stephen Kumalo, a preacher from the small
countryside town of Ndotsheni, and his son Absalom Kumalo, who went to
Johannesburg at a young age and has now turned into a criminal because of the
temptations of the big city. This is things like liquor, prostitution and
theft. Absalom falls into this spiral of crime and is a thief in Johannesburg
until he gets sent to a reformatory school. The young white man, who manages
thee school says that “Your son has done very well here” to Stephen. After he
is released from there, partly because of his good behaviour but also because
he has gotten a girl pregnant, he first gets a job and a home, but after a
while he falls back into crime a theft. One day, he and two other young men,
the others are John Kumalo’s son Matthew and another young man, Johannes
Pafuri, go to rob a house in one of the rich, “white”, parts of the city.
Inside the house, they first encounter a servant, who they beat down, but then
the white owner of the house notices and surprises the three downstairs,
Absalom shoots because he is scared and kills him, the three run away. The
owner of the house was Arthur Jarvis. Eventually his father finds him, they
meet in prison, after Absalom had been caught. The two also have quite an
extraordinary relationship, since the two haven’t seen each other in a long
time and because Stephen had just been living a quiet and peaceful life in
Ndotsheni, while his son was in the big city and has gotten up to crime and
other unrightfully things. When his father asks Absalom, why has done these
things, the only thing he can reply with is, that the devil made him do
it.  Absalom is sentenced for punishment
by death.JO3 

This relationship can be seen to represent the differences
between the older generation to the younger one, how the old generation wants
to stick to their values and how they do this by isolating themselves or just
“not being in Johannesburg”, while the younger generation wants to experience
all the new things, which pulls them towards Johannesburg, which then results
in terrible things like the murder of another person and being pulled into
crime.

Lastly, there is the relationship between John Kumalo,
Stephen Kumalo’s brother and his son Matthew Kumalo, who was also involved in
the robbery on Arthur Jarvis. We do not know a lot about this relationship,
since it is never described in the novel and we don’t ever get an insight into
how the two live and interact, but we can still see, that it is quite an
unhappy and toxic relationship. This is especially present, when Matthew Kumalo
is in court, and his father does the following: He tells the court, that there
is no evidence, that his son and the other young man, Johannes Pafuri, were
there in the first place. This way he pushes everything onto Absalom and makes
him alone responsible for the crime, which is why he is sentenced to death.
Later, after this, the two, John and Matthew, can be seen celebrating this IN
FRONT OF Stephen, whose son was just sentenced to death. John doesn’t really
care about his brothers’ well-being if Absalom is alright, and we can see this,
when all he has to say is “Well, well, I have heard of it…”. The two have a
relationship, that is all about just keeping them alright by using all kinds of
advantages and tricks for themselves. This relationship can be seen to
represent how the white people in South Africa at that time use the black
people for their advantage or how people in general can be consumed by their
selfishness until they their personalities disappear and all that remains is
someone, who feeds of others.

To conclude, I would
like to say, that I personally think that Paton really does use these
relationships to describe the race relations in South Africa at the time, he
does this really well, since it gives people something that they can really
relate to, even if they don’t really know, what was going on at that time in
the country, but I think most people should be able to relate to a father and
sons relationship.