By Alan Paton
"Cry the Beloved Country", by Alan Paton, is a book which tells the story of how James Jarvis, a wealthy estate owner who, because of his own busy life, had to learn of the social degradation in South Africa through the death of his only son. If Arthur Jarvis had never been killed, James Jarvis would never have been educated by his son's writings, and by Stephen Kumalo.
When we first meet James Jarvis, he knows little of his son's life. He doesn't know his son "was on a kind of mission" (p.140), and this is why when Harrison says,"...we're scared stiff at the moment in Johannesburg."( P. 140) James is surprised and says, "of crime?"( P. 140). Talking to Harrison taught Stephen about the crime in the City, and the next morning he learns about his son. One of the first things that James learns of his son, and his views, he learns in Arthur's room. In reading his writings, James finds that Arthur would have risked anything to help other people, and ended up doing just that. James finds that his son was well researched on the problems of their society, and was interested in helping the development of the social structure in south Africa. From the pictures of Jesus and Lincoln on his wall, James discovered the admiration Arthur had for these two men. These were men of action, who showed love for their friends, and at the same time, their enemies. These two men suffered and died for their beliefs, as did Arthur in a way. This comparison enables Arthur's father to better understand his son and he realizes how concerned Arthur was for humanity.
After the discovery of his son's views, James begins to realize his shortcomings and starts to think of the problems of others and not only of his own. In this aspect, James begins to remind the reader of Oscar Shindler who at one time hated Jews, but as he began to understand them, he thought of their troubles and how his wealth could save them. Much like Shindler, Jarvis helps the minority. Following his son's death and the acquaintance of Stephen, James donates 1000 pounds to the African boy's club. Jarvis is not just giving gifts in memory of his Son, or just to give, but rather he is giving those who need help, ways to help themselves. When James gave the money to the club, he didn't just decide to give it to them, but knew that if he gave it, the club would use it to improve the country's condition. In all of his donations, James uses this subtle method to emancipate the blacks. This is the method his son taught him. Using his son's views again, James decides to do something about Kumalo's village, which is falling apart. This Task is a fairly large one, and James does this in steps. He first provides milk for the village kids, who only have warm water to drink, and then he builds a church. The reason he decides to build a church is that when he is in Ndotsheni it begins to rain, and he and Stephen take shelter in the church, which leaks and is in need of repair. The rain in Ndotsheni is a bit of foreshadowing of hope for the village, and maybe of what is to come.
Through James' education, we learn the similarities between Mr. Jarvis and Kumalo. When we first meet Jarvis, the setting is much the same as when we met Stephen. They both live in the farming areas of South Africa, and they share the love for the land, and what is in their lives. They each are married with one son of whom they know nothing. After they both lose their sons, they have a need to understand them, although all that is left are the memories. They each learn of the problems in South Africa through their sons, and after the realization, they both try to do something to improve the social, and racial differences which plague Johannesburg.
" Cry the Beloved Country" is a book meant to teach how racial views can affect people in different ways. The representation shows how South African problems "educated" James Jarvis, and turned him into a compassionate, and understanding man. If Arthur Jarvis had never been killed, James Jarvis would not have been educated by his son's writings or by Stephen Kumalo.