Is mercy depicted in the novel Cry, the Beloved Country?
When Stephen Kumalo and James Jarvis take refuge in the church during a rainstorm, Jarvis asks Kumalo, "Is there mercy?" Although he is referring to the situation with Absalom, for whom no legal mercy has been extended, how would you answer that question in light of the changes occuring in Ndotsheni and the lives of the main characters in the concluding chapters of the novel? Is mercy depicted in the novel?
This is a fascinating question. The part of the story you relate occurs in Chapter 32, when Jarvis inquires of Kumalo if there is mercy for Absalom. However, when I first read this question I remembered what happened in Chapter 30 and the prayers that Stephen Kumalo offered up to God for his safe return to the village. Kumalo prays:
Tixo, we give thanks to Thee for Thy unending mercy. We give thanks to Thee for this safe return. We give thanks to Thee for the love of our friends and our families. We give thanks to Thee for all Thy mercies.
This leads me to think that there is mercy offered in this excellent and moving novel, but not the kind of mercy that we would expect. There is no "mercy" in the traditional sense of the word for Absalom Kumalo, and yet he is apparently able to meet his death with calmness and confidence in God, as we can discern from his letter. Likewise, in a sense, we know that the quest of Kumalo to rebuild the tribe and keep the people from leaving the land is flawed at best, and yet mercy is shown in the provision of so many things from Jarvis. Lastly, no mercy is shown to Kumalo in living to out live his only son, and yet mercy is shown in the shape of the daughter and grandson that he gains.
Mercy is present in the novel, but perhaps we need to change our perspective to have eyes to see that mercy. The two lead characters, Kumalo and Jarvis, have gone through experiences that definitely change their perspective and understanding of life, which enables them to see and appreciate the mercy that is shown.