As Malala Yousafzai once said, “There should be no discrimination against languages people speak, skin color, or religion.” The novel Cry, The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton takes place in South Africa in 1946. The novel is based upon Kumalo, a Zulu pastor and his son Absalom, in which they face the absurd racial injustices that are taking place in South Africa at that time. The most important theme in this novel is racism and segregation which causes tension between the whites and the black South Africans allowing the way the black South Africans are let to live in poverty, and how the superiority of the whites affects the way the black South Africans are treated in the judicial system.
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Many people in Johannesburg are forced to rent out rooms to strangers, because of the lack of money the black South Africans are dealing with. Shanty towns are large settlements of very poor people where the residents build shelters or shacks out of tin, sheet iron, and whatever materials they can find.
There are so many shanties that shanty towns began to form, forcing a lot of people to live really close together and in extremely poor conditions, “Shanty Town is up overnight. The child coughs badly, and her brow is as hot as fire. I was afraid to move her, but it was the night for the moving. The cold wind comes through the sacks. What shall we do in the rain, in the winter? Quietly, my child, your mother is by you. Quiet my child do not cough anymore, your mother is by you” (Paton 89). These people are living in such horrifying conditions that children are dying due to the weather, malnutrition and many other factors. This causes tension because although the whites and the blacks are living in the same city the white South Africans are doing nothing to help with this problem. It is obvious that they are aware of the situation because this is happening all over Johannesburg. The two races are separated in many ways, but the most repulsive way the segregation and racism are resembled through the novel is by the way the black South Africans are living. And this problem is not only happening Johannesburg but also in Ndotsheni, “Why is there no milk in Ndotsheni? Is it because the people are poor? Yes, inkosana. And what do the children do? Kumalo looked at him. They die, my child, he said. Some of them are dying now. Who is dying now? The small children of Kuluse. Didn’t the doctor come? Yes, he came” (Paton 270). Ndotsheni is suffering with many problems, and they are expected to face them alone.
The people of Ndotsheni are suffering from a drought and they are outrageously poor. Racism and segregation are not only causing tension in the central cities of South Africa, even the black South Africans that live in the outskirts of these cities are suffering from this. Children are dying every day because the white South Africans do not offer to help, there is so much they could do to help aid these problems both in the central cities and in the outskirts. The white South Africans are acting as if they are clueless of all the problems these people are facing, they are more focused on the things they could lose if these problems were fixed. The white South Africans are blinded from all the quandary happening around them and are focused on other matters, “Who knows how we shall fashion such a land? For we fear not only the loss of our possessions but the loss of our superiority and the loss of our whiteness. Some say it is true that crime is bad, but would this not be worse? It is not better to hold what we have, and to pay the price of it with fear? And the others say, can such fear be endured? For is it not this fear that drives men to ponder these things at all?” (Paton110). People are beginning to share their opinions on the solution to the “Native problem”, most of the comments are very racist.
The white South Africans do not know how to respond to the situation, they are fearful of what could happen if the black South Africans learn to stand their ground and fight for their rights. This shows the reader the tension between the whites and the blacks because the whites know that even with the huge money gap between the two races, they are still put in danger and are frightened by the idea of not being the ones “in power”. Many of these racist comments contain questions about the pass laws. The pass laws in South Africa was an internal passport system mainly designed to segregate the population, and to manage urbanization. One citizen commented, “They should enforce the pass laws, Jackson. But I tell you the pass law doesn’t work. They’d work if they were enforced. But I tell you they are unenforceable. Do you know that we send one hundred thousand natives every year to prison, where the mix with real criminals? That’s not quite true, Jackson. I know they’re trying road camps, and farm-labor, and several other things” (Paton 108). Black South African are not at all being treated with same respect as the white South Africans.
The white South Africans are aware that they are the ones in power and that it is up to them to fix the problems going on in the city. The main point is that they do not know how to solve it correctly, and the want to start using the pass laws. Using these laws give the whites a lot more power over the south Africans which can later on lead in much more complications causing more tension between the races. There is an enormous amount of tension between the black and the white South Africans which was caused by the racism and segregation in 1946, making the most important theme in Cry, The Beloved Country, the separation of racial ethnic groups. Throughout the novel there were many times in which the white South Africans could have done anything to succor with the problems that the black South Africans were facing, yet only a few to none grew the courage to help them.
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