Cry the Beloved Country: Novel Summary: Book II Chapters 18-21
Book II Chapters 18-21
Book II: Chapters 18-21
On his prosperous farm in Carisbrooke, above the valley that leads down into Ndotsheni, James Jarvis surveys the plowing of the fields, and is gloomy because there is a drought, and there is still no sign of rain. He sits down and watches a police car making its way to the farmhouse. His wife directs the two policemen to where Jarvis is sitting. Captain Jaarsveld informs him of the death of his son, Arthur Jarvis. Jarvis has to tell his ailing wife the bad news. Then they make arrangements, with the help of the police, to fly to Johannesburg.
They are met at the airport by John Harrison, the brother of Mary, Arthur Jarvis's wife. Harrison takes them to the home of his parents. They then drive to the Police Laboratories to identify the body. When they return to the house they find there are many messages of sympathy from a wide range of people, white and black. Harrison talks to Jarvis about all Arthur Jarvis's many activities on behalf of racial justice. James Jarvis knew little of this, since he had not inquired into it. It was not something he thought about. Harrison then talks about how all the whites in Johannesburg are frightened by the extent of black crime. Later, in bed, Jarvis tells his wife he wishes he had known more of his son's work.
The next day, Jarvis sits alone in his son's office, looking at his son's papers and his many hundreds of books. He reads a page from one of his son's manuscripts, which sets out his moral approach to solving social problems. After reading, Jarvis is lost in thought for a while. Then he goes downstairs and walks out of the house, through the passage where the murder took place.
After the funeral, they all return to the Harrisons' home. Harrison tells Jarvis about his tough views on crime. He believes in capital punishment and an increase in the number of police. He thinks the "natives" are getting out of hand, even starting up trade unions and threatening a strike at the mines. But the mines are vital to the country, and work there should not be disrupted, he believes.
After breakfast the next day, wanting to understand his son's views better, Jarvis reads his son's manuscript on black crime. Arthur Jarvis argued that because it perpetuated racial inequality and justified it on religious grounds, South African society was not Christian. Jarvis is moved by what he reads.
Whereas Book I focused on Kumalo and his search for his son, Book II focuses on John Jarvis. The fact that the first two paragraphs of Book II are almost identical to those of Book I brings out the irony of the fact that Kumalo and Jarvis come from exactly the same region in Natal-and yet there is so much that separates them, in terms of race, social status, and economics.
These chapters also contain a lot of social analysis and commentary. On the conservative side, English-speaking whites like Harrison firmly believe that the "natives" are well treated by the whites. He thinks they earn good wages at the mines and also have decent housing. Without the mines, he believes that thousands of blacks would die of starvation. He thinks of himself as a fair-minded man, and says he has nothing against the blacks.
James Jarvis is also aware of social problems, and like Harrison, he takes a conservative view, although these are not issues he has thought deeply about. He knows the barrenness of the valley below his farm, but he is also aware that the people who live there know nothing about farming. He suspects that if they were given more land, they would probably not make good use of it. And if they did, who then would work on the white man's farms, since they depend on black labor?
In contrast to this is the voice of Arthur Jarvis, which speaks through his manuscripts, with his searing call for racial justice and his exposure of the moral bankruptcy of white rule over the blacks who make up the vast majority in the country.
The evolution of Jarvis's views, stimulated by the tragic death of his son, will now become the focus of this part of the novel.