Chapter 10 Summary

Kumalo spends his evenings with his sister Gertrude and her little boy. He does not know how to talk to Gertrude, with whom he was never close, but he enjoys the company of the child. The boy often plays with cheap wooden blocks or listens, uncomprehending but serious, to Kumalo’s stories about Ndotsheni. Sometimes Gertrude steps into the doorway to listen to the stories, too, and Kumalo is glad.

Kumalo and Msimangu go to Shanty Town, the place built by Dubula and the desperate newcomers to Johannesburg. Absalom is no longer living there, but they have no trouble getting directions to the shack where he stayed for a while. The woman who lives at the place says that Absalom was arrested and sent to a reformatory for troubled boys.

Kumalo is not exactly surprised to find out that his son turned to crime, but the news still upsets him. On the way to the reformatory, he asks if criminals can change. Msimango does not know, but he says he hopes so.

The director of the reformatory is an earnest white man who tells Kumalo that Absalom has already been released. He assures the old man that the boy worked hard and did very well during his imprisonment. His girlfriend, who is pregnant, often visited him. The director explains that he took a risk and released Absalom early in the hopes that the responsibility of providing for a family would keep him in line. He adds that if this does not work, nothing will. 

The director urges Kumalo not to worry too much about his son impregnating a girl out of wedlock. “The real question is whether he will care for them, and lead a decent life,” the man says. He knows where Absalom lives now and offers to take Kumalo and Msimangu there.  

Absalom’s latest home is in a slum called Pimville. There, Kumalo meets an alarmingly young pregnant girl whom Absalom is supposedly planning to marry. She says Absalom has been missing for several days. Although she does not say so aloud, it is clear that she is not sure he will ever come back. In spite of everything, Kumalo feels sorry for the girl, who he knows has virtually no chance of providing for herself and a child. 

Msimangu advises against trying to help the girl, but Kumalo feels a responsibility toward his unborn grandchild. Together, he and Msimangu agree to let the reformatory director who has more power and more connections, finish the search for Absalom for them. When the boy is found, they will decide what to do next.