Discuss how Foster would view geography in Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Foster's analysis applies to the idea that geography can be used by an author to reflect different elements of plot or characterization.  In his own language, a place is not just a place.  Writers use geography to convey something more.  For example, in Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country, geography conveys much.  Kumalo's village, Ndotsheni, is a realm where values are represented, but also one in which people are leaving it to go to Johannesburg, the big city where the lure of opportunity collides with the reality of sadness and a loss of values.  The use of setting helps to bring out the cultural realities for people of color in South Africa.  Remaining in villages is no longer economically feasible for young people in search of establishing themselves, but the urban centers are filled with sadness and pain as people enter there in search of a dream only to find a sense of the desolate.  The progression of Kumalo through the city to find Absalom could also be seen as an example of geography in terms of the voyage through Kumalo's own heart and fears of what has happened to his own sense of tribal connections and his own fears about his son.  In this journey to find his son, Kumalo's experiences are mirrored in the geography of what he sifts through to find Absalom.  The "wilderness" element that Foster alludes to has been replaced with the morass of the urban sprawl, a new type of concrete wilderness where there is danger and confusion at every turn.  The ending of the novel in Ixtopo represents a home for both Jarvis and Kumalo, a place of reconciliation.  Consider Paton's own description and one sees how geography is more than just a place:

 There is a lovely road which runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.

The lush region is representative of both the fruition of new ties between both men, one white and one Black, as there is also a sense of renewal on both geography and politics.  In this, one sees how Foster's read on geography is evident in Paton's work.

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Cry, the Beloved Country

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