Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

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Why does Kumalo go to Emoyeni mountain for vigil in Cry, the Beloved Country?

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The mountain called Emoyeni is a place of inspiration for Kumalo. He goes to the mountain in times of great crisis in his life. Three times he has gone to Emoyeni - once when his son Absalom was small and "sick unto death," once when he had been considering leaving the ministry to take a job that made far more money, and once when he had been tempted to be unfaithful to his wife. Kumalo goes to Emoyeni to meet metaphorically with God. He goes to the mountain to pray, and finds healing and peace there. It stands to reason that he will maintain vigil on the mountain when his son is about to be executed.

Emoyeni itself is a beautiful place;

"it stands high above Carisbrooke and the tops, and higher still above the valleys of Ndotsheni and Empayeni. Indeed it is a rampart of the great valley itself, and valley of the Umzimkulu, and from it you look down on one of the fairest scenes of Africa."

Kumalo goes to the mountain like a pilgrim. He takes along with him "a bottle of tea, of the kind that is made by boiling the leaves...and a few heavy cakes of maize." He also takes his coat and his stick, walking up the path alone. Kumalo's vigil on the mountain is filled with religious imagery. As he waits through the night, he confesses his sins there and prays for absolution, then prays in thanksgiving, pondering the deep questions in his heart and reflecting on the gifts he has been given in his life. Kumalo prays "long and earnestly" for his son, his people, and his country, and as the sun rises in the east signalling the moment of his son's death, he breaks bread and gives thanks as Christ did, and looks to the east in anticipation of the dawn (Chapter 36).

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