Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

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Chapter 19 Summary

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John Harrison, the brother of Arthur Jarvis’s widow, meets Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis at the airport in Johannesburg. He takes them to his family’s suburban home, where they hug Mary, their daughter-in-law, and cry together. Then they all pile into the car and go to the mortuary, where they are allowed to see the murdered man’s body even though it is past midnight.

Afterward, Jarvis has a drink with Mary’s father, and the two of them discuss the fact that Arthur put so much effort into solving what they call “the native question”—the question of what to do about the problematic relationship between black and white in South Africa. The two men marvel at the idea that a man could put so much energy and faith into the well-being of another race. Neither of them understands it, but they both say Arthur was a good man. Jarvis adds that he “was never ashamed” of his son.

During this conversation, Harrison informs Jarvis that, on the day of the murder, Arthur was working on an essay titled “The Truth About Native Crime.” Apparently he believed that South Africa’s “native” crime problem resulted at least partly from the actions of whites, but Harrison admits that he does not understand the logic behind that particular idea.

During this conversation, Harrison tells Jarvis a number of things he did not know about his own son. Apparently Arthur argued publicly that black mine laborers should not be forced to live separately from their families in Johannesburg, but should be allowed to bring their wives and children along. These statements angered the mine owners so much that they almost got Arthur fired from his job. When warned to back off, Arthur insisted that he would rather lose his livelihood than abandon his principles.

By the time Jarvis finally joins his wife in their bedroom, his mind is reeling. He is normally quite a silent man, so she is amazed when he relates the whole conversation with Harrison. She, too, is somewhat surprised by the extremes of their son’s altruism, but she understood Arthur better than Jarvis ever did. Now Jarvis shakes his head and wishes aloud that he had tried harder to get to know his own son.

As the chapter ends, Jarvis reiterates a question he has been asking in one form or another since he heard about the murder: Why did Arthur, of all people, have to be the victim? Why did such a bad thing happen to such a good man?

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Chapter 18 Summary


Chapter 20 Summary