Cry, the Beloved Country | Study Guide

Alan Paton

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Cry, the Beloved Country | Book 2, Chapters 24–25 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 24

Paton devotes this chapter to a repeat visit by James to Arthur's house. Once again in the library, James reads one of his son's typed articles, titled "Private Essay on the Evolution of a South African." In this paper, Arthur declares he enjoyed a wonderful childhood, but that his parents taught him little about South Africa.

James is shocked and hurt, and he momentarily puts down the manuscript. But then he resumes reading. In a second passage, Arthur discusses his motivation for dedicating himself to the service of South Africa. James sits for a long time in reflection, and then leaves the house.

Chapter 25

In this chapter, James and Margaret decide to visit a relative named Barbara Smith in the district of Springs. Barbara is Margaret's niece. While the ladies go into the town, James sits at the house and reads the newspaper.

Stephen, on his errand for Sibeko (see Chapter 3), knocks at the kitchen door. The sight of James causes Stephen to tremble with emotion, and James tries to steady the elderly parson. A series of questions and answers partially establishes the connection between the two characters, but the full truth does not emerge until Stephen tells James fearfully, "It was my son that killed your son." James is silent for a while and then tells Stephen, "There is no anger in me."

When the ladies return, James helps Stephen carry out his errand. But Barbara brusquely sweeps the matter aside, saying she had to fire Sibeko's daughter, and has no idea where the woman is now—nor does she care. Barbara is unaware Stephen both speaks and understands English. Diplomatically, James explains the response to Stephen in Zulu, suppressing Barbara's rude comment. Just as tactfully, Stephen expresses his thanks in Zulu.

As the chapter ends, James greets his wife, noticing Margaret walks as if she is old. He does not tell her about the encounter with Stephen.

Analysis

In Chapter 24, Paton once again uses the device of James getting to know Arthur's ideas through Arthur's manuscripts. As in Chapters 20 and 21, Arthur's words depict him as an idealist—a visionary social reformer. The manuscripts have a powerful effect on James, even when Arthur declares his parents had taught him nothing about what it means to be a South African.

At the end of the chapter, Paton closes the scene with a touch of dramatic irony, in which a character is unaware of something known by the audience or reader. Observing James's departure, the policeman stationed at the back door shakes his head, thinking that the elderly man can no longer face reality. Actually, the policeman could not be more mistaken. James's awareness of South African realities, and of his son's character and ideals, is steadily increasing.

In Chapter 25, Paton uses coincidence to set up the first encounter between Stephen and James since Arthur's murder. Despite this "forced" aspect of the narrative, the scene remains extremely effective. Paton skillfully paces James's gradual recognition of Stephen, while Stephen slowly musters the courage to tell James the dreadful truth about Arthur's shooting. The two men have, of course, both been present at the court sessions. The emotional climax of the meeting occurs when James reassures Stephen he "has no anger." The reader realizes a remarkable transformation has already occurred in James—a compassionate willingness to forgive. This is almost surely a result of his newly acquired familiarity with Arthur's ideas and ideals.

The closing scenes of the chapter are notable for some subtle details. In particular, the skillful use of Zulu and English avoid embarrassment at several points, even as they suggest a bond between Stephen and James. The detail of Margaret looking old foreshadows her death later in the novel.

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