Nature and Its Meaning
The tone of the novel, set from the first paragraph, is like a parable told of a distant place of beauty. Yet within that idyllic setting something is going horribly wrong. By the end of the second paragraph, the tone has changed to show that nature's lush greenness is actually fragile and interdependent with humans. "Destroy it and man is destroyed." Cry, the Beloved County is first and foremost the story of a land exploited and left to suffer by a people running after gold. Paton's story contains hope that a balance can be regained by raising awareness about the state of things so that the "natives" will have hope and men like Jarvis will make concessions so as to help them help themselves. It is a hope that the children will not care so much for ownership of the land or things, but for the beauty of the land and for each other.
From the start of Stephen Kumalo's journey to retrieve his family from Johannesburg, there is the unsettling presence of the land. Some critics have said that the land itself is a character in the novel whose pit of illness is the city. First, the land is described as lovely grass and hills, but then attention is drawn to the jarring effect of the road cutting through them. Next, as Kumalo journeys towards the city, the scars of industry are more pervasive as are the burdens on his people. Finally, the city is all noise and pollution and people. Africa is a sick person needing rescue from all those who depend upon it. Like Gertrude, the ill sister Stephen searches for, Africa is calling for someone to rejuvenate it. However, though Jarvis begins by sending an expert, Mr. Letsitsi, the reader can only hope that the land will have more success than Gertrude.
Clearly, the land's health or illness is isomorphic, that is having similar appearance, to the healthy state of the tribe and the nation. The land is the only concern of the tribal leader since most of his people have left for the city. The land is a common conversational topic amongst black and white farmers who are concerned at the growing length of time between rains. There is something very wrong in Africa, and people feel it. The land is ill and society seems to be out of order with itself. Unfortunately, the people decide to worsen things by increasing the burden on the majority of its population—the non-whites—and by doing little to restore the vitality of the withering beauty of the land.
Fear, the emotion that never seems to diminish throughout the novel, is ever present to Stephen. He fears for the land, for his son, for Jarvis, for all he sees in the city. Everyday a new fear arises and the greatest is that his faith is somehow pointless. This fear is a...
(The entire section is 1130 words.)