Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton

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Chapter One: The first chapter of Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country begins with a description of a road that runs from the village Ixopo into the hill and then leads to Carisbrooke and to the valleys of Africa. The grass is rich and matted, a holy ground that must be kept and guarded for it keeps and guards men. Analysis: Alan Paton begins Cry, the Beloved Country with a description of the land surrounding Ixopo, the village where the pastor (and protagonist) Stephen Kumalo lives. Paton establishes this as a rural and isolated area, which is significant to develop the character of Kumalo and his relationship to the larger urban area of Johannesburg where he will soon find himself. The style of this first chapter is grandiose, equating the survival of the soil to no less than the survival of the human race, but this serves an important function, relating the life and health of the country (in both its meanings) to the health of its inhabitants and, by extension, the novel's characters. Chapter Two: A small child brings a letter to the umfundisi (pastor) of the church, Stephen Kumalo, who offers the little girl food. This letter is from Johannesburg, and thus may be from either his sister Gertrude, who is twenty-five years younger than he, his brother John, a carpenter, or his only child Absalom, who had gone and never returned. Both Stephen and his wife hesitate when opening the letter, thinking it may be from their son, but it is instead from the Reverend Theophilus Msimangu, who relates to Stephen that Gertrude is very ill and advises him to come to the Mission House in Sophiatown, Johannesburg, to help her. Kumalo sighs, and tells his wife to get him the money intended for Absalom's education at St. Chad's, for now that Absalom has gone to Johannesburg, he will never come back. His wife tells Stephen to take the entire twelve pounds, five shillings and seven pence, just in case. Analysis: This chapter serves as the introduction to the protagonist of Cry, the Beloved Country, the pastor Stephen Kumalo, establishing his main conflicts and character traits. From his first encounter with the small child, Paton establishes Kumalo as a kind man yet powerful and respected within his community despite his poverty, as shown by the small savings that he and his wife had scraped together for their son's education.
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