Inevitability of Change Revealed in Cry, the Beloved Country
Things grow old and die. Change is inevitable: a candle will eventually burn out, trees will fall to the ground, and mountains will crumble to the sea. This inescapable process is clearly illustrated by the character Stephen Kumalo in the book Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton. The Kumalo seen in the beginning of the book is a completely different person from what he is in the end. He is initially very kind and caring, but by the end of the book, he is a far less naïve person, one who is able to lie even to his own brother. The events that transpire and the changes they cause in the protagonist, Stephen Kumalo, clearly show that Cry, the Beloved Country is a book concerned with the effect external events can have on a man caught in the middle of them.
The book begins in a small South African village called Ndotsheni, where Kumalo is the pastor of the only church. Like all pastors, Kumalo is a kind, religious, tolerant, and caring man. In chapter 2, very early on, Kumalo is demonstrably very conscious of other people’s feelings, as is shown by what he says to his wife:
I am sorry I hurt you, he said. I shall go and pray in the church. (p. 10)
When he gets into an argument with his wife and unintentionally hurts her feelings, he is quick to apologize and, as an attempt to make up for what he has done, goes into the church and presumably begs the Lord for forgiveness. Only a man with true compassion and love would go to such great lengths to make up for a wrong.
In chapter 4 of Cry, the Beloved Country, Kumalo makes a journey to Johannesburg to help his sister, Gertrude, who is said to be ill. Before he makes this trip, though, he hears lots of bad things about the city, such as about the fate of those unfortunate enough to venture there:
When people go to Johannesburg, they do not come back. (p. 8)
This may appear at first to be literal, that people who go to Johannesburg never return. But, after a closer examination of the quote and the rest of the story, it seems to be more metaphorical than that. What it seems intended to mean is that although you may indeed physically return, the ordeal while staying there is so traumatic that it can change a person forever. In this sense, it foreshadows that Kumalo, who does indeed go there, will not return as he left.
While Kumalo is in Johannesburg, some changes become evident in him. He begins to see some things in himself he didn’t before:
I am a selfish and sinful man, but God put his hands on me, that is all. (p. 25)
Here he admits that he is hardly a perfect man, and that it was not through his own spirituality or goodness that he became a pastor, but that it was simply deemed to be so by God. This would be hard for many...