Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

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Why was Absalom sent to reformatory school in Cry, the Beloved Country?

Quick answer:

Absalom was sent to the reformatory school for committing robberies. We are told that he got into mischief with another young man called John and that they would regularly come home with white people's goods.

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Absalom Kumalo has gone off the rails in a big way. His father, the Reverend Stephen Kumalo, is shocked to discover that he's become a serial criminal, regularly committing robberies with his friend John. As Msimangu tells him, the two young men would often come home late at night with goods stolen from white people.

As a consequence of his robberies, Absalom was sent to a reformatory, which is kind of like a reform school or juvenile detention center. Despite his criminal past, Absalom soon became a model inmate, so much so in fact that he was given early release for good behavior.

However, Absalom is very far from being a reformed character. As well as quitting the job provided for him by the reformatory, he gets into more trouble, which includes shooting a white man called Arthur Jarvis while burglarizing his home. In the event, Jarvis dies, which means that Absalom is in a whole lot of trouble. He could get the death penalty for what he's done.

Sure enough, once he's captured, Absalom is charged with murder and, after a swift trial, is sentenced to death. It seems that, tragically, his experience in the reformatory didn't really reform him at all.

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