What are the key political issues for white and black Africans in Cry, the Beloved Country?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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You might find it useful to analyse Chapter 12 of this incredible novel, and in particular the way in which it presents us with the huge maelstrom of different ideas about what should be done in South Africa. Essentially, however, the political issues stem from the basic differences and opportunities available to both whites and blacks in South Africa. Because blacks, who are more numerous than whites, are given less farming land, the land is becoming exhausted and is unable to support the rural inhabitants. This then results in urbanisation, as the young seek new opportunities in the big city, only to find themselves trapped in new cycles of poverty and despair as their opportunities appear to be even more curtailed there than they were in the city. As a result, they turn to crime, as Gertrude and Absalom do, which further drives a divide between whites and blacks, as the blacks rob the white neighbourhoods and the fear among the whites escalates. Perhaps one of the most telling quotes asks a rhetorical question about how peace might be achieved:

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? Is it not better to hold what we have, and to pay the price of it with fear?

The truth behind the different political realities for blacks and whites in South Africa therefore is that the whites have power and are not willing to share that power with the blacks.


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