Explain why the murder of Arthur Jarvis is an especially sore and unfortunate blow for the native people of Johannesburg in Cry, the Beloved Country.

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The murder of Arthur Jarvis is an especially tragic blow for the native people of Johannesburg because he was sympathetic to their situation and had been prepared to work actively to improve it. In the newspaper article about his death, a reference is made to an unfinished manuscript of his which was found on the table by his bed. In this manuscript, entitled "The Truth about Native Crime," Jarvis expresses his thinking and conclusions about the nature of the social dilemma that is tearing the country of South Africa apart (Chapter 11).

The substance of the manuscript written by Jarvis is revealed in Chapter 20. The writer examines the history of the country, especially as it pertains to the current situation in which thousands of displaced natives are swelling the ranks of the population in the cities and living in deplorable conditions. Jarvis looks to the roots of the dilemma, citing the imperialists' practice of bringing in the natives as cheap labor to mine gold, without measuring the effect of such action. Jarvis says,

"It is not permissible to mine any gold, or manufacture any product, or cultivate any land, if such...depend(s) for (its) success on a policy of keeping labour poor. It is not permissible to add to one's possessions if these things can only be done at the cost of other men."

Jarvis recognizes that past policies have resulted in the destruction of native culture, and a large urban native population who live without direction; he stresses that the society has a responsibility to educate the children of that population and otherwise care for those it has displaced. Jarvis says,

"Our natives today produce criminals and prostitutes and drunkards, not because it is their nature to do so, but because their simple system of order and tradition and convention has been destroyed...by the impact of our own civilization. Our civilization has therefore an inescapable duty to set up another system of order and tradition and convention..."

to take its place.

Arthur Jarvis was a deeply moral and committed man who championed the cause of the natives. His death, at the hands of a native, was truly a blow to the native people of Johannesburg.

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Cry, the Beloved Country

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