What does Stephen learn from his journey to Johannesburg in Cry, the Beloved Country?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From his journey to Johannesburg, Stephen Kumalo learns that there are great changes taking place in South Africa, and that they are represented, for better or for worse, in the city of Johannesburg.  The author says about Stephen,

"The great city had opened his eyes to something that had begun and must now be continued.  For there in Johannesburg things were happening that had nothing to do with any chief".

Stephen sees the corruption and despair his people experience in the city.  The young people of the rural areas are drawn to the urban areas in hopes of making a better living there, but for the most part, they cannot find work, and live in squalor and desperation.  The temptations found in the city are great, especially when a person has nothing; indeed, Stephen's own son is a victim, falling among bad acquaintances and committing crimes which eventually lead to his capture and execution. 

Through his experiences in Johannesburg, Stephen knows that the change that has begun cannot be stopped.  The land in the country is poor and cannot support all who depend on it, so people, notably the young, have little recourse other than to seek something better in the city.  Having seen what his people are up against in Johannesburg, however, Stephen has come to believe that every effort should be made to "try to keep some of them in (the) valley", in their rural homes.  Stephen thinks that the only way this can be done is "by caring for (the) land before it is too late...by teaching (the young) in the school how to care for the land.  Then some at least would stay in Ndotsheni", instead of fleeing to the dangerous environment of the city (Chapter 31).

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Cry, the Beloved Country

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