James Jarvis: A Changed Man Essay

756 words - 3 pages

In 1930’s and 1940’s South Africa, many people suffered through traumatic events, whether it be a robbery, a loss of livelihood, a beating, or the ultimate tragedy, the loss of a loved one. In his novel Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton makes sure that this is not left out of his true-to-life, albeit fictional, account of life in South Africa. James Jarvis is the recipient of this tragedy in the novel. His son, Arthur Jarvis, is murdered in his home by Absalom Kumalo during a botched robbery attempt. This sudden loss breaks Jarvis’ heart and sends him reeling. He goes to Johannesburg for the trial and ends up realizing that he really didn’t know his son at all. Reading his son’s writings causes him to have a moral conversion, and he begins his new life when he returns to Ndotsheni. Even though James Jarvis is a man of few words, he has much to say after his son’s death and he speaks through his actions.
James and Arthur Jarvis have a relationship similar to that of Absalom and Stephen Kumalo. They both have sons who left them to go to Johannesburg, and both sons don’t communicate with their fathers anymore. However, whereas Kumalo realizes that he is becoming distant from Absalom, Jarvis has no clue that he is ignorant of who his son really is. In fact, his son not being there really does not seem to phase him all that much. That’s not to say that he doesn’t miss his son or that he is glad that Arthur is gone. It simply means that Jarvis is unaware of how his family has fallen apart since Arthur left for Johannesburg. Also, he is unaware of the social injustices that are going on in South Africa. He accepts the government for what it is and goes about his daily business, such as tending to his farm, taking care of his family, etc. He goes about this way of life until he learns that his son has been murdered. This begins his life-altering journey.
Arthur Jarvis’ funeral takes place in Johannesburg, which means James Jarvis must travel to the city. While there, he visits his son’s home and reads some of his son’s writings. As he’s reading, Jarvis slowly becomes aware of...

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