Cry the Beloved Country: Novel Summary: Book II Chapters 26-29
Book II Chapters 26-29
Book II: Chapters 26-29
John Kumalo addresses a big crowd in a square in Johannesburg. It is a political speech, calling for the wealth from the gold mines to be shared more equally with the workers who produce it. He has the gift of oratory, and rouses the crowd. Kumalo knows his own power, but he is afraid of it. He does not want to go to jail and lose all his possessions and the applause of the crowd. So he goes so far and no further in his speeches. He excites the crowd and then pulls back, not wanting to provoke the watching police into taking action.
The strike for which Kumalo is calling comes and goes. At one mine, the police were called, and they drove the black miners down the mine. Three black miners were killed in fighting.
Mrs. Lithebe reproaches Gertrude for associating with people who laugh carelessly. Gertrude says she will be glad to be gone from Johannesburg, a place that has brought her only trouble.
The evening newspaper reports another incident in which a white man is killed in his home by a black person. Mrs. Lithebe and Gertrude are shocked, and fear that the news may adversely affect Absalom's fate in his trial. They hide the newspaper from Kumalo. Later, Gertrude tells Mrs. Lithebe that she desires to become a nun.
The judge gives his summary of the case. He states that the presence of Johannes Pafuri and Matthew Kumalo at the scene of the crime has not been proved. They are therefore found not guilty and released. Absalom, however, is found guilty of murder without any mitigating factors. He is sentenced to death by hanging.
In the prison, Father Vincent performs a marriage ceremony for Absalom and his girlfriend, in the presence of Absalom's father. Kumalo and Absalom are then left alone, and Kumalo promises to care for the baby as if it were his own. Absalom says he has four pounds in a Post Office book, which he wants to be used for the child. He also asks for a parcel of his belongings to be sold and the proceeds given to help with his son's upbringing. Absalom is calm until the city of Pretoria is mentioned. That is the capital city of South Africa, and it is where the hanging will take place. He breaks down and cries. Stephen tries to comfort him, but soon the warder comes and tells him it is time to go.
Kumalo, who is returning home the next day, visits his brother to say goodbye. John says that he plans to bring his son back to his carpenter's shop to live with him. Stephen engages him in a discussion about his political views. He wonders where John's political activism is taking him. He fears his brother may be arrested, and he says he has heard that a man has been sent to the shop to pose as a friend but really to spy on him. He knows this is a lie but he wants to hurt his brother. After Stephen makes an allusion to the two false friends that his son had (one of whom was John's son), John becomes enraged and forces Stephen out of the shop.
Jarvis leaves the Harrisons, presenting John Harrison with a check for a thousand pounds for his boys' club. He tells John to do with the money whatever he and Arthur had wanted to do. John is stunned by Jarvis's unexpected generosity.
That evening, Msimangu hosts a going-away party at Mrs. Lithebe's house. Msimangu announces that he intends to retire from the world and enter a monastic community. He presents Kumalo with a Post Office book that contains his savings. He has transferred it to Kumalo's name. Kumalo weeps at the generosity of his friend. Kumalo later discovers that there are over thirty-three pounds in the savings account, which is quite a large sum.
The next morning, he rises to begin the long journey. But he finds that Gertrude has gone. It appears that she has gone back to her former life, although this is never established beyond doubt.
These chapters contain much that is dark and ominous. Absalom is condemned to death, and the trial is set against a background of rising crime and labor unrest.
There is a factual basis for the account of the miners' strike. A miner's strike did take place in 1946. The black mineworkers' had every reason to be dissatisfied with their lot. At the time, white miners wages were almost thirteen times higher than wages paid to black miners. After the strike, the South African Chamber of Mines redoubled its efforts to prevent black miners from forming trade unions.
But the narrator clearly suggests that political action through strikes is not the way to social progress. The strike appears to accomplish little, and its great advocate, John Kuala, is shown to be corrupt, more in love with his own power to move a crowd than in selflessly pursuing his cause.
However, the complacent whites fail to learn any lessons from the strike, as the satirical tone at the end of chapter 26 suggests. They foolishly think that just because the strike is over, and things seem to have quietened down, all will be well.
The gloom of these chapters is relieved by the great goodness and generosity of Msimangu, and the change that is beginning in James Jarvis.