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Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

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Student Question

What are three examples of repetition in Arthur Jarvis's manuscript in Cry, the Beloved Country, and what issues does it emphasize?

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In Cry, the Beloved Country, the most striking example of purposeful repetition in Arthur Jarvis’s manuscript is the use of the word “permissible,” which occurs twenty-three times in a relatively short document. Jarvis begins with the statement:

What we did when we came to South Africa was permissible.

The repeated use of the word emphasizes that however much permission is granted, even by the most indulgent authority, many things that the colonizers of South Africa have done are not permissible by any ethical standard. The same emphatic effect is achieved by the use of the word “unskilled” in the following two sentences:

It was permissible to use unskilled men for unskilled work. But it is not permissible to keep men unskilled for the sake of unskilled work.

At the end of the manuscript, which breaks off abruptly, Jarvis repeats the phrase “No one wishes” three times at the beginning of three consecutive sentences. Each sentence says essentially the same thing, that no one wants to make a difficult task seem easy, and the anaphora serves to stress the difficulty of the task.

The authors (meaning both Paton and Jarvis) incorporate so much repetition to lend rhetorical force to the moral judgments expressed. The issues they emphasize are the nefarious way in which the colonizers of South Africa have behaved to date and the possible remedies for this conduct that might be applied in the future.

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