In Cry, the Beloved Country which setting, Johannesburg or Ndotsheni, is more moral?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Paton constructs his settings in a very complex manner.  Certainly, Johannesburg is shown to be an urban setting where there is much in way of moral depravity.  It is a setting that is shown to be cut off from past traditions, where many Black Africans go to find material prosperity and more modern opportunity. Kumalo recognizes that in their pursuit of such ends, they have sacrificed the tribal connections to others and forgone the moral bonds that have connected them to larger entities than themselves.  Nodotsheni is shown to be a world that is disappearing, as so many of its people are fleeing to Johannesburg.  Naturally, Nodotsheni is shown to be a place with greater morality than Johannesburg.  Yet, there is more to this depiction.  Part of Kumalo's pain is that he cannot explain why areas like Ndotsheni are no longer appealing to the people, especially the young people.  It is not so much that one place is morally superior than another setting, but rather that there are specific limitations in both settings for Black Africans.  It is for this reason which one can only "cry" because both settings provide a lack of hope or redemption intrinsic to both.  It is here where one setting might be more moral than another, but little in way of redemption is evident despite this.