Paton uses three of his characters as examples to demonstrate the destructive effect the breaking of South Africa's tribes had on her people. Paton shows how ordinary people, not inherently bad, ultimately fell without the support of the tribe, from lack of pride, community, and structure. Yet Paton maintains that these three characters cannot be entirely blamed for their actions because many events led up to their fates that were not within their control.
The first of these three characters is Gertrude. She is the sister of Stephen Kumalo, a black Christian priest, and the main character. Gertrude leaves her village to Johannesburg to look for her missing husband and she is not heard from again until Stephen receives an urgent letter about her from a concerned fellow priest, Msimangu.. Wh...
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...hese three characters serve to demonstrate what happened to millions of people in South Africa. The arrival of the mines and the growth of huge cities had a horrible impact on South Africa, breaking the structures and cultures of its tribes and leaving its people without any solutions. The impersonal cities did not provide the people with the same motivation to develop self-regulating principals in order to maintain a sense of moral obligation. Unfortunately the majority simply turned to crime and immorality, in the absence of the need to obey the dictates of tribal rule. Without the constraints of a familiar moral structure, the sense of responsibility towards each other and need to be accountable to others for their own behavior disappeared. The destruction of the tribe destroyed the identity of the South African people and the repercussions were irreversible.
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