Chapter 27 Summary

Mrs. Lithebe lectures Gertrude about spending time with the wrong kinds of people. As Gertrude listens sullenly, Mrs. Lithebe urges her to be “a good woman” and avoid bad companions. Above all, the older woman emphasizes that everyone must try to live up to Kumalo, who “has surly suffered enough.”

This is roughly the same speech that Mrs. Lithebe has already given the girl who is going to marry Absalom, but Gertrude does not accept the lecture quite so readily. She protests that she did nothing wrong, and she also blames Johannesburg for being a bad influence on her. She says it will be easier to be good when she gets back to Ndotsheni.

During this conversation, a neighbor enters with a newspaper. On the front page, a headline proclaims that another black burglar has murdered another black homeowner in Johannesburg. This news upsets and scares everyone in the room. They know it does not bode well for Absalom. It will turn public feeling more strongly against him, and it will give the judge more reason to think he needs to make an example of someone.

Tomorrow is the last day of Absalom’s trial, and Kumalo is under a great deal of stress. Because of this, his friends and family decide to hide the news from him until after the verdict. Amongst themselves, they quietly make plans to keep the old man away from newspapers for the rest of the day.

Later that evening, Gertrude approaches Mrs. Lithebe and says she wants to become a nun. Mrs. Lithebe says she is glad to hear about anyone considering such a difficult life path, but she goes on to point out that Gertrude has a child who is depending on her.

Gertrude knows this is true, but she worries she may not be able to resist the temptations of the real world as long as she lives among them. She suggests that if she becomes a nun, she can avoid shaming Kumalo in the future. Perhaps Kumalo’s wife would care for the child. Mrs. Lithebe seems uncertain about this, and she advises against making a decision right away. 

A while later, Gertrude finds the girl who is going to marry Absalom and restates her plan to become a nun. The girl says she would gladly care for Gertrude’s child herself if necessary, but Gertrude says it would be best not speak to anyone about the matter. If Kumalo heard about the plan, he would get excited, and Gertrude does not want to disappoint him later if she changes her mind.