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When They Fall, So Does the TribeThe Kumalo Family as an Allegory for theDeterioration of the ZuluGavin Driggers
Apartheid: beginning in the year 1948 and ending in the year 1991, itis often spoken of as the worst period in South Africa’s history. It is defined asa time of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination in Africa.Alan Paton chronicles how the terrible circumstances of the time affected thelives of two men and their families in his famous novel Cry, the BelovedCountry. Stephen Kumalo is one of these men, and his family by far suffersthe worst: he loses his sister, his son, and his brother to the city ofJohannesburg, whereas the Jarvis family only loses a son. Stephen Kumalo isa parson in the small Zulu village of Ndotsheni. Before Apartheid, the landaround the village is beautiful and flourishing, with the tribe prosperous andfull of youth, but when the novel begins it has clearly deteriorated. Stephenand his wife are the only remaining members of the Kumalo family in thevillage, the land is empty and unfit for farming, all the young people have leftfor the city, and the village is poor. Paton utilizes the splintering of theKumalo family as an allegory for the fall of the Zulu society during Apartheid,with each member that has left for Johannesburg representing a differentaspect of the ways Apartheid has affected the Zulu tribe.Stephen Kumalo himself represents the few tribal people that stillremain with the tribe. He is old, he is tired, and he’s desperate to save hispeople. His position is represented in this quote from the end of the firstchapter: “They are valleys of old men and old women, of mothers andchildren. The men are away, the young men and the girls are way. The soil
cannot keep them anymore” (Paton, 34). Paton uses imagery here to