Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton


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Cry the Beloved Country

Seeing on Another Level

From the day of birth and throughout adulthood, we as humans go through many changes. Kohlberg identifies these changes as stages of moral development that all humans go through. Each person's moral reasoning develops through Kohlberg's mapped out stages. In the novel Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton discuses the life of several defined characters who undergo significant moral changes, all of which are for the better. A man named James Jarvis is a wealthy land owner and a crucial character in Paton's novel. The turning point in the novel comes about by the death of Jarvis's son. Although Jarvis lost his son, this tragedy opens his eyes to a deeper awareness, and Jarvis attains a higher level of moral reasoning. According to Kohlberg's stages he progresses from stage four of (law and order orientation) to the sixth stage of (ethical principles).

Before the death of his son, James Jarvis had been a person who found contentment in tending his estate and maintaining a distinct separation from the world around him. He was basically a good man who never bothered to face the controversial issues of the time. At this point in the novel, Jarvis was at Kohlberg's stage four of law and order orientation. When someone is at the fourth stage of moral development they often have a lot of rules. They generally feel orientated towards authority and maintenance of the social order. They often feel we need to maintain the given social order for its own sake. James Jarvis, as introduced in "Book II,"would ponder many questions to himself, a lot about the social order and how it has been maintained. A good example from Paton's novel was a segment of Jarvis thinking of a controversial issue. "Some said there was too little land anyway . . . and that the natives could not support themselves on it, even with the most progressive methods of agriculture. . . Jarvis thought about all the possible outcomes to this debated statement while he finished climbing to the top of a mountain, where he sits on a stone to admire the view." From this we can see that Jarvis has separated himself from the world and only observes from an outside perspective. Even though he does think about many controversial issues, he never bothers to state his opinion and try to make a difference.

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Jarvis has never talk to anyone about what he thinks of these controversial ideas, he just likes being by himself admiring a spectacular view. At this point in the novel, Jarvis's basic needs are satisfied at Kohlberg's fourth stage.

Jarvis has always believed in traditional ideas, but during the course of the novel and as a result of his son's death, he moves closer to his son's position. Despite the fact that Jarvis undergoes a dreadful suffering, he still tries to come to some understanding of the racial problem of South Africa by trying to understand his son. What most influences Jarvis about his son Arthur is the knowledge that Arthur had been threatened on several occasions, but had answered the threats by saying he had to speak the truth under any circumstance. Jarvis learns a great deal about his son through many of the portraits on the walls and books on the shelves throughout Arthur's house. However it was Arthur's letter that really left an impact on Jarvis. The letter contains the depth of Arthur's mind. It is well reasoned, it shows a knowledge of the nation's history, and it shows a concern for helping the oppressed rather than attacking the oppressors. Arthur was more concerned with appealing to the best in the oppressors and the worst in the oppressed. All these ideas are new to James Jarvis and it is small wonder he finds himself overwhelmed and has to read the page a second time to take it all in. This was the beginning of Jarvis's education of humanity.

Arthur's funeral had a major affect on Mr. Jarvis. It brought him into direct physical contact, and on the same level of grief, with all the races of South Africa. Jarvis has largely seen the natives as labor, a commodity rather than a set of individuals, but now he is introduced to them on a different basis, one further step in his education. The tragedy of his son's death brought forth a deeper awareness about the people and everything going on around him. He attained a greater level of moral reasoning. According to Kohlberg's stages Jarvis reaches, or he is in transition to reaching stage six, ethical principles. Very few people ever make it to the sixth stage, and when they do, they often live to better mankind. Their views of principles appeal to logical universality and consistency. They would sacrifice themselves for a cause other than family. Their obedience or disobedience to law is based on moral respect for justice. Jarvis becomes a man for other people. He first begins to do simple tasks for young children, like sending them milk. Later Jarvis builds a dam for the people. This is only the beginning of Jarvis greater change. Ultimately, he finds a trained expert in agriculture who can show the people how to help themselves. Jarvis does what he can and makes efforts to correct any injustice.

James Jarvis, does undergo a dreadful suffering as result of his son's death. However, he begins to learn to understand his son whom he had not previously really known. Furthermore, he comes to a better understanding of himself, and of the entire country. As a result of this suffering and the deeper understanding, Jarvis becomes a reformed man, and he continues the work begun by his deceased son by contributing to projects intended to improve the state of the natives. He had attained a higher level of moral reasoning and progressed to Kohlberg's six stage of development. The significant change that came about in Jarvis happened as result of his son, it just goes to show that we as humans can always grow upon each other, no matter how old one another is, father, son, relative, or just a friend, there is always something to learn and grow from.


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