Fear In South Africa Essay

943 words - 4 pages

Cry, the Beloved Country, a book by Alan Paton, deals with the thematic struggle of South Africa and the oppression of blacks. In it, a black parson, Stephan Kumalo, goes on a journey to find his family. Everyday holds new fear, not only for Stephan, but also for everyone in South Africa. Each character in Cry, the Beloved Country has a fear of something, and that fear proves to be an influential force in all of their lives. Stephan Kumalo has a fear of the unknown, John Kumalo has a fear of oppression, and Gertrude and Absalom have a fear of death. These fears are the driving forces of Paton's characters.

Stephan Kumalo's fear of the unknown leads him on a journey to find his family in the city of Johannesburg and its surrounding townships. He receives a letter from Johannesburg, where most of his family resides now. He is afraid to open the letter because he has not heard from any of his family in a very long time, and he does not know what to expect. Kumalo thinks that it could be either good news or bad news, but he feels that the letter is probably bad news, since it would be highly unusual for them to write. This fear of the unknown, the unexplored almost drove Kumalo to not open the letter. This would have changed the whole course of his life; he would not find out about his ailing sister, and therefore not find his son. This is one example of how fear affects the lives of Paton's characters in South Africa.

The apartheid system instills fear in all people, the fear of being oppressed, and John Kumalo is truly affected by this fear. Although John is comfortable in Johannesburg under the laws and regulations there, he is still fearful of oppression. He says to Stephan at their first meeting that in Johannesburg, he does not have to follow the chief's inane orders. In Johannesburg, he has power. And yes, he does have power, to an extent. When in the town square, preaching to a group of black people, John has the power to get the crowd worked up, but desists the idea, as white policeman are nearby. "Here is the moment for words of passion"¦ words that can waken and madden and unleash. But he knows. He knows the great power that he has, the power of which he is afraid. And the voice dies away"¦" (219). John Kumalo is afraid of his power to lead people...

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