Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

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Why is Jarvis angry in book 2, chapter 7 of Cry, the Beloved Country?

Quick answer:

In book 2, chapter 7 of Cry, the Beloved Country, Jarvis becomes angry when he reads Arthur’s writings. It bothers him to learn that Arthur felt ignorant about South Africa and seemed to hold his parents responsible for this ignorance. Jarvis is then upset to realize his son could not continue with his efforts to improve the political system and race relations in his country.

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After the trial for Arthur’s murder is over, James Jarvis goes to his son’s house, as presented in book 2, chapter 7 (or chapter 24). In Arthur’s study, although the father is not sure what he is looking for, he finds himself reading some papers that Arthur wrote. Among a wide variety of topics, one work especially catches his eye. In this essay, about “The Evolution of a South African,” Arthur recounts the intellectual and emotional aspects of his trying to come to terms with the complicated racial and national composition of his country. As the older Jarvis has not fundamentally questioned the social order, it surprises him to learn how much soul-searching his son had done about the ethical dimensions of the deeply divided system in which they live.

When James Jarvis reads what seems to be a critical comment about him and his wife, he grows angry at the perceived insult. Apparently rejecting Arthur’s opinion, he stops reading and starts to leave the house. This crucial passage states that Arthur believed his parents were “honorable” and had done a good job in raising him—except for the fact that he did not learn from them the depth of the country’s internal divisions. He laments what he considers his total ignorance about his country while he was growing up.

After he walks away, Jarvis reconsiders and sits down to read and digest the rest of the essay. He realizes that his son had become strongly committed to working toward meaningful reforms that he hoped would lead to equality and heal the racial divide.

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