Chapter 13 Summary

There are no more clues for Kumalo to follow, and there is nothing for him to do but wait and find out what happens next. Msimangu has a prior obligation to go preach a sermon at a place called Ezenzeleni, where white missionaries run a support program for blind black people. He invites Kumalo to come and see the place, suggesting that it will do the old man good to rest and focus on something positive for a change.

When they arrive at Ezenzelei, Kumalo withdraws from the other people and just sits in the sun, looking at the beautiful view. He knows that it is ridiculous to fear that his son will turn out to be the culprit in the horrifying Jarvis crime. But his fear persists.

For hours, Kumalo just sits still and agonizes over the pain in his life. He feels ashamed that Absalom, his own son, got a girl pregnant out of wedlock. Kumalo knows that many people have sex outside of marriage in Johannesburg, but this is no comfort. Absalom has already abandoned his unborn child, and he has clearly been living as a thief. Beyond that, it is possible that the boy has murdered a white man. What does it say about Kumalo if his own son has become the killer of a human being?

All these thoughts plague Kumalo, and eventually he must admit that his personal problem is a symptom of something much bigger: “The tribe was broken, and would be mended no more.” This revelation grieves him greatly.

Eventually Msimangu tells Kumalo that it is a sin to wallow. So Kumalo eats a meal and attends church, where he hears Msimangu read from the Bible for the first time. This, finally, provides Kumalo some comfort, because Msimangu has “a voice of gold,” and he reads passages about healing.

Here the narrator breaks into the story to say that Msimangu is a brilliant preacher, but that some people hate him for it. He preaches to people who have no freedom, no power, and no education. These people are always hungry, and they have no chance to improve their lives unless they fight for something better. According to Msimangu’s critics, his preaching makes it easier for the oppressed to resign themselves to their terrible fate.

At the end of the service, the congregation seems uplifted, and even Kumalo feels better. He says so, and Msimangu seems glad he has provided this small comfort.