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A Lesson Before Dying Essay

1292 words - 6 pages

The Tragedy that Brought About Change Depending on the conditions and circumstances under which one is raised, it is possible to have a one-way train of thought. This was so of James Jarvis, one of the characters in Alan Paton's Cry, The Beloved Country. Jarvis was a wealthy white man who lived at the top of the rolling hills of a city called Ixopo, South Africa. In him, the doctrine of black inferiority and Apartheid were instilled by his society. It is not until the death of his son, Arthur Jarvis, an advocate for black rights, that the reader is able to trace the change in James Jarvis, a man who was able to change the condition of an entire people. At the opening of Cry, ...view middle of the document...

Little by little, Jarvis became more and more curious of his son's works, and began to spend more time reading parts of the incomplete book. "He looked at the hundreds of books, and slid aside the glass panel and took one of them out...and read it through carefully....and replaced the book in the case and shut the case. Then he opened the case again, and slipped the book in his pocket, and shut the case. (p. 147)" As the novel continues on, Jarvis wants "to understand his son, not to desire what was no more accessible to desire. (p. 153)" Arthur's book continues to discuss the propaganda in which the white society has lived by: We say we withhold education because the black child has not the intelligence to profit by it; we withhold opportunity to develop gifts because black people have no gifts; we justify our action by saying that it took us thousand of years to achieve our own advancement, and it would be foolish to suppose it would take the black man any lesser time and therefore there is no need for hurry. (p. 154)" Reading the remainder of the book, Jarvis actually felt like a changed man. His curiosity of Abraham Lincoln's philosophy grew and he looked up Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. When he finished reading that selection, he felt that there "...was a sudden lifting of the spirit....an increasing knowledge of a stranger. He began to understand why the picture of this man was in the house of his son...(p. 155)" Jarvis' first real act of generosity came from encouragement of his grandson the son of Arthur. "Inkosana," as the little boy is called, rode his horse to the parson's house, Stephen Kumalo. After asking for a glass of milk, Kumalo explains to the boy that they don't have milk because the people cannot afford it. He also explains that many children are dying from the lack of milk, and mentions one of the babies, the child of Kuluse. This child was to die because milk is the only thing that can save him, and is something the town does not have. The little "inkosana" leaves, solemnly. Not too much later that day, a messenger carries a letter from Jarvis addressed to Kumalo. The messenger reported that the child had rode up again,...

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