Cry , the Beloved Country: Post-Colonial Literary Theory

Cry , the Beloved Country: Post-Colonial Literary Theory

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Cry , the Beloved Country: Post-Colonial Literary Theory

Bibliography w/4 sources          Cry , the Beloved Country by Alan Paton is a perfect example of post-colonial literature. South Africa is a colonized country, which is, in many ways, still living under oppression. Though no longer living under apartheid, the indigenous Africans are treated as a minority, as they were when Paton wrote the book. This novel provides the political view of the author in both subtle and evident ways. Looking at the skeleton of the novel, it is extremely evident that relationship of the colonized vs. colonizers, in this case the blacks vs. the whites, rules the plot. Every character’s race is provided and has association with his/her place in life. A black man kills a white man, therefore that black man must die. A black umfundisi lives in a valley of desolation, while a white farmer dwells above on a rich plot of land. White men are even taken to court for the simple gesture of giving a black man a ride. This is not a subtle point, the reader is immediately stricken by the diversities in the lives of the South Africans.

     The finer details of the book are what can really be looked at in terms of post-colonial theory. The fact that a native Zulu, Stephen Kumalo, is a priest of Christianity and speaks English, communicates how the colonized are living. Neither of these practices are native to his land, but they are treated by all as if they were. Small sentences are woven into the plot to further this point, such as the reoccurring European greetings.

     Another emphasis is on the learned customs of the people. In court when Kumalo finds that his son will be hanged, he is touched that a white man breaks the custom to help him walk outside. When the white boy raised his cap to Kumalo, he, "felt a strange pride that it should be so, and a strange humility that it should be so, and an astonishment that the small boy should not know the custom." (p. 234). The fact that this small courtesy was taken so heavily is overwhelming from a post-colonial point of view. Kumalo is so accustomed to the way of the land that he does not dare think that he deserves even this respect.

     Napoleon Letsisi is the character that reveals the significant political belief of the author.

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In the conversation with Kumalo, he explains his views of the country. To this point in the novel, the reader has been introduced to some white characters many of which are perceived as sympathetic and kind to the natives. It is easy to share in Kumalo’s view of how kind these few people are, while losing sight that the truth is that there is infinite more oppression than kindness. Letsisi stops the reader from getting caught up in this. He makes the point that, "what this good white man does is only in repayment." (p. 268). In terms of post-colonial criticism, this political view shows how desperate the situation for the indigenous South African truly is. He or she lives under complete restriction, to the point that he or she cannot realize that others have much more in their lives.

Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996.

Paton, Alan. Cry, The Beloved Country. New York: Macmillan, 1987.

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