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Security and Independence in Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country Essay

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One great paradox of human life is the balance between security and independence. Many people would say that they are self-sustaining, that they can make it on their own. The question is not always whether or not they can make it, but what the cost of their security is. Some value their personal freedom more than their security, for others it is the opposite. In “Cry, the Beloved Country” characters often wrestle with this issue. Every character responds uniquely according to their situation. The results are meaningful and give information about who they really are and what they value.
First there is Gertrude, the protagonist’s younger sister. She grew up with the tribe in Ndotsheni, but upon reaching adulthood, left for Johannesburg. Her original profession is unknown, but she desired to be away from the restrictions of the tribe. There is no better way to remove yourself from a society than to do something unacceptable. Gertrude achieved this by defying one of the tribe’s and her family’s most sacred institutions, the church. She turned to prostitution as an answer to her desire freedom. She was in charge, she set the price. It made her feel good knowing that she was worth more than the tribe saw her as. She did not need a man to support her. She could discard the tribe’s ideas of marriage and family. It came at a price though. She lost all security. She believed that this was freedom. The truth is that she was never free as a prostitute, she was completely dependent on her customers. It was with her purity and innocence that she paid for the food on her table. If her body did not sell, she would have to lower the price, and the standards. Stephen brought to light the trap that she was in. At first she believed him, but after a ...


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... a very young age and with it her independence. Once she gained back her independence she saw that safety was missing. She looked for it in “husbands” but found that they failed her. Stephen gave her back that security when she joined his family through marriage. Stephen left the comfort of home to help others, but found himself more helped. He came back with a new sense of independence derived from interdependence. The deepest lessons you can learn are from your own mistakes. These characters all had flaws, that much is true. The difference came from how they chose to deal with them. The best result came when they said “I cannot do this alone.” The balance is found when one is free and safe personally, but also shares that freedom and security with others.




Works Cited

Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1948. N. pag. Print.


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