Naturalism in Cry the Beloved Country
‘Materialism or naturalism is the denial of free will; it robs an individual of his/her freedom. Every action initiated by a person (s) is not by choice, but an act of inevitability, over which an individual has no control (Intellectuelle Literature, 2005).
In the book, ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ by Alan Paton, naturalism forms the basis for the narration of the story. Written against the background of Apartheid, Paton uses the protagonist to depict the sad plight of the black South Africans in their own country. The minority white Afrikaners, have robbed the blacks the right to free speech and equality. The story revolves around Stephen Kumalo who travels all the way to Johannesburg, in search of his sister who is fighting to survive on her own. How he finds his sister and his travails form the theme of this extremely touching book.
2.0 Literature Review
Naturalism in, ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ is about the sequence of events that the protagonist goes through in his journey to an elusive freedom. Born black is not the best thing to happen in life if you happen to be in South Africa during the apartheid regime. The untold stories of savage and brutal attack on blacks by the minority white are many, but through the eyes of the author, Alan Paton, one gets to see how the blacks fought for equality and the terrible nightmare of torture and abuse they faced in their short life.
The novel is based on the true-life events that preceded South African apartheid, and the native’s struggle for equality. The book reveals the struggle for recognition, their fight for justice, and their losing battle against freedom. How the black South Africans would have loved to be a part of the nation, where both blacks and whites lived together harmoniously. Sadly, this was not to be so.
The book begins with Stephen Kumalo, a poor Anglican parson, and a native black South African from the tribal land of KwaZulu-Natal going out to Johannesburg in search of his son Absalom, and sister, Gertrude. Reverend Msimangu had written to him about his sister being sick. Johannesburg doesn’t present a pretty picture, for the blacks are made to toil for a paltry living and beaten mercilessly by their employers. They have to live outside the city in sheds and are not allowed anywhere near places where the whites visit. a long time ago, and neither Kumalo nor his wife have heard of the whereabouts of either family members. As he goes on his journey, the things that he sees, and experiences tell the much greater story of Apartheid in South Africa. His heart goes out to his brothers and sisters who are made to work like slaves in their own country, abused and kicked by a minority migrant white population. Oppression and poverty had sent his sister to prostitution. The murder of a white, Arthur Jarvis is put on Absalom. Justice is denied by the judge to the poor black boy, and Absalom is sentenced to death by hanging. Stephen, like Msimangu, believes in the Lord and says that whatever has happened has been the way of the Lord. Out of pity for his son’s pregnant lover, Stephen brings her to Ndotsheni, where she begins a new life. Stephen also takes Gertrude’s son into his shelter. Stephen has shown tremendous courage and dignity in all the events that happened around him, for he believes that despite the numerous set-backs, the beautiful land of his, would be returned to him and the majority black South Africans.
In the book, ‘Cry the Beloved Country,’ the oppression and savagery against the blacks have turned Absalom and Gertrude to crime. The irony is that both these characters were trying to make a living from their stay in Johannesburg, but due to racial abuse and brutality, they found solace in committing crimes. While Absalom became involved in a murder and was hanged, Gertrude was forced into prostitution. Though Stephen with the help of Reverend Msimangu fought to save his son, the white judge was more convinced in Absalom’s role in the murder and sentenced to death. During all these terrible incidents happening to him, Stephen knew that his lovely land would be bestowed on their rightful owners (Black South Africans) and injustice to them would end (BookRags, 2006).
Literature, 2005, Intellectuelle Literature, www.evangelicaloutpost.com/intellectuelle/archives/literature/
BookRags, Cry, The Beloved Country Book Notes Summary, http://www.bookrags.com/notes/cbc/SUM.htm