Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

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Chapter 29 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 670

One day, Kumalo, Msimangu, Father Vincent, Gertrude, and the girl all go to the prison to visit Absalom. At first, Absalom looks hopeful, as if he thinks his family might have found a way to save him. His father tells him it is time for the wedding, and Absalom's hopeful expression disappears.

After that, everyone stands around awkwardly as they wait for the guards to take them to the prison chapel. Nobody can think of anything to say, so they repeatedly greet each other in the formal Zulu way by asking after each other’s health. Absalom keeps saying that he is healthy, even though everyone knows he will soon be hanged.

Father Vincent performs the marriage ceremony quickly, and Absalom and the girl both dutifully speak their wedding vows. Afterward, Absalom speaks to Kumalo and says that he has a post office book—a sort of savings account—with a little money in it. He also has a few possessions that can be sold. He asks that the money be used to help his wife and child. Kumalo agrees that this is a good idea.

Before Kumalo leaves, Absalom cries and says that he is afraid to be hanged. When the guard says it is time to go, Absalom clings to his father and refuses to let go. It takes two guards to pry him away.

After this sad visit, Kumalo goes to see his brother, intending to offer some heartfelt advice. However, when he arrives at his brother’s shop, he finds himself feeling angry. After all, his son Absalom is paying for his crime with his life, and John’s son Matthew got away with his role in it.

Wanting revenge, Stephen Kumalo lies and says that one of John Kumalo’s friends is a traitor who is helping the police. But Stephen is only scaring his brother: in the end he points out that this is the kind of traitorous friendship Absalom experienced from John’s son Matthew. John furiously throws Stephen out of the shop.

Meanwhile, Jarvis is ready to leave Johannesburg. On his way to the train, he speaks to his daughter-in-law’s brother, John Harrison. This young man works for a charitable club that provides opportunities to young black boys. Just before getting on the train, Jarvis hands John Harrison a letter containing a gift of a thousand pounds—an enormous sum of money—to support the club.

That night in Sophiatown, Mrs. Lithebe throws a sad little going away party for Kumalo, Gertrude, and the girl, who are planning to leave on the train first thing in the morning. A few friends give informal speeches about Kumalo’s bravery in the face of trouble, his goodness in helping Gertrude and the girl, and so on. Afterward, Msimangu announces that he is going to renounce his worldly possessions and retire to a monastery.

This party ends early because the travelers need to get some rest before they set out in the morning. Kumalo walks Msimangu to Mrs. Lithebe’s gate to say good-bye, and Msimangu says that he no longer has need of money. He gives Kumalo his post office book, which contains his life savings of more than thirty-five pounds. This amount equals about eight months’ salary for Kumalo, and it is more money than he has ever had at one time in his life.

Kumalo goes to bed filled with mixed feelings. On one hand, he feels guilt for lying to his brother and sadness for his son. However, he also feels uplifted by the kindnesses he has received from his friends in Johannesburg—and from Msimangu above all.

In the morning, Kumalo gets up and readies himself to leave. He wakes the girl, who seems eager to go. When he tries to wake Gertrude, he finds her bed already empty. Her child, however, is sleeping soundly in his usual place.

Kumalo understands immediately what this means: Gertrde has run away and abandoned her child. She will never return to Ndotsheni.

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