At the beginning of Chapter 13, Kumalo fears that what he has heard is true, that his son Absalom might indeed have killed a man. He knows without question that his son has
"gone astray in the geat city, where so many others had gone astray before him...(he has) become a thief, moving like a vagabond from place to place, living with a girl who (is) herself no more than a child, father of a child who would have...no name".
Yet Kumalo does not yet know for certain that Absalom is guilty as charged for killing the white man. The old priest cannot imagine how this could be so, how a man can be so broken that "he could bring himself to kill another". As he wonders how he and his wife have failed in raising up their son, Kumalo experiences a moment of false hope, because he is sure that
"...there (is) nothing, nothing in all the years at Ndotsheni, nothing in all the years of the boyhood of his son, that could make it possible for him to do so terrible a deed".
Kumalo's exposure to the alien world of the city has made him understand one thing about the tribe, however. He admits that
"the tribe (is) broken, and would be mended no more".
Kumalo can clearly see that "the tribe that had nurtured him, and his father and his father's father" cannot meet the needs of the young people of the day. It can sustain them no longer, neither physically nor spiritually; and as the young men and women leave in droves for the unforgiving city, Kumalo realizes that his mission now is to educate them so that when they go away, they will have a strong but new foundation, "something that (will) take the place of the tribal law and custom" (Chapter 13).