Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

Start Free Trial

Chapter 18 Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Book Two of Cry, the Beloved Country begins the same way Book One begins, with a detailed description of the rolling, fertile hills of rural South Africa. This time, however, the author makes it clear that a white farmer named James Jarvis owns the fertile area at the tops of the hills.

Jarvis’s land may be fertile, but it is suffering from a drought. The soil is too dry to plow properly, but he orders a man named Thomas to keep trying. In the meantime, Jarvis climbs higher into the hills; looks down that the eroded, overgrazed lands in the valley; and worries. As he sees it, “the natives” need to be taught better farming practices so that they will treat the land better. But educated people tend not to want to be farmers, and even if they did, there are too many “natives” for the valley to support.

As his reflections continue, Jarvis reflects that some white people say the “natives” need more land—but Jarvis thinks they would probably just destroy it. And if they farmed it properly, that would be a problem, too: they might get so rich they would not be willing to work for white farmers anymore. In Jarvis’s mind, both of these possible outcomes are unacceptable. He reflects that some problems have no solutions.

From his vantage point on the hill, Jarvis sees a police car approaching his house He watches curiously as the local police captain gets out, speaks briefly to Mrs. Jarvis, then comes to the fields. Realizing that the captain is there to see him, Jarvis walks downhill to meet the man halfway.

Gravely, the captain explains that Jarvis’s son is dead, murdered in his home just two hours ago. He says that he did not inform Mrs. Jarvis, thinking it better to leave that job to her husband.

At first, Jarvis can hardly grasp the bad news. The captain brings up travel and funeral arrangements, but Jarvis finds himself unable to think. The captain has kindly checked the flight and train schedules, and he tells Jarvis when they both leave. When it becomes clear that Jarvis is too overcome to decide what to do, the captain quietly suggests that the plane would be a better option.

After a long moment, Jarvis gathers himself and goes to tell his wife the awful news. The captain, meanwhile, uses Jarvis’s telephone to arrange the couple’s travel plans. Partway through his call, he has to cover his ear to drown out Mrs. Jarvis’s screams of grief.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Chapter 17 Summary


Chapter 19 Summary