Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

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Who are the foils of Msimangu, Stephen Kumalo, and James Jarvis in "Cry, the Beloved Country"?

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While many may argue that the foils are obvious (James/Stephen and John/Msimangu), another argument could be that the sons are foils of the fathers. Absalom Kumalo is a foil to Stephen Kumalo, and Arthur Jarvis is a foil to James Jarvis.

Both sons left their homes in Ndotsheni while both fathers chose to stay. Both sons question their lives in Ndotsheni, and while both fathers do later in the novel, the fathers decide that life is better in the village. Lastly, both sons die (coincidently, Absalom kills Arthur) due to their living in Johannesburg. Both fathers survive (again, due to their decisions to stay in Ndotsheni).

Going deeper, neither father seems to really know who his son is. Both only find out after each son's death. The sons left to find themselves, and the fathers needed to return (something neither of the sons could do) to the village (either physically or emotionally) to figure out who both they and their sons were.

Msimangu's foil could be any of the characters who choose to separate themselves from faith: Absalom, John Kumalo, and/or Gertrude Kumalo. Msimangu clings to faith, and the other characters seem to flee from it.

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Arguably, James Jarvis and Stephen Kumalo could be considered each other's foils. They certainly come from different backgrounds and from different walks of life, different races, classes, etc. Also, since Kumalo's son murdered Jarvis's son, they are certainly set up in opposition to each other. But the beautiful scene between the two in the rainstorm and the resulting generous acts done by Jarvis bring the two together in a very connected hope for the future of South Africa.

John Kumalo, actually, could serve as Msimangu's foil. He dismisses his faith, preferring what he perceives as a quest for power in his struggle against the apartheid, whereas Msimangu never loses sight of his faith, even though he is involved in the same struggle.

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