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Barron's Booknotes-Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

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CHAPTER 8

The third day, the priests set off for the main bus route, where every bus is the right one because they all go into Johannesburg. In the city, more walking takes them to the buses for Alexandra, but they find a boycott underway to bring the fare from 12 pence back down to 4. The leader is the famous Dubula who seeks nothing for himself. Kumalo says his business is urgent and eleven miles is a long walk, but Dubula points out that people much older, and even the sick or the crippled, walk that far every day.

Unwilling to disobey the boycott, the friends walk for miles until at last a white man goes out of his way to drive them through Johannesburg and beyond it to Alexandra-a poor black area so crime-ridden that neighboring whites petitioned to have it torn down. The petitions failed because the white leader Professor Hoernle argued that it was one of the few districts of Johannesburg where blacks could own their homes. Still, old white women assaulted for their purses near Alexandra have died, and even white prostitutes sitting in cars have been attacked.



Their talking takes them to Mrs. Mkize's door, but she hasn't seen Absalom for months. She acts so frightened that Msimangu sends Kumalo to a snack stall and questions her by himself. What does this action suggest to you about Msimangu? Why does Alan Paton show you that Msimangu knows how to deal with people of all social classes in the city? Yet even Msimangu has to swear not to talk to the police before she will admit that Absalom and his cousin brought stolen goods into her house. Finally she gives a name, the taxi driver Hlabeni. Hlabeni proves easy to find, but he too fears the police and wants a guaranteed fare of 11 shillings before he will talk. He suggests a place near Orlando where there are squatters. It's large, but he says Msimangu can look up one of the social workers there. The readiness with which Msimangu accepts the suggestion again indicates that he must have a wide circle of acquaintances in the city.

Msimangu calls Kumalo over, and they take a taxi home along the wide road that runs from Johannesburg to Pretoria. They see thousands of people riding bicycles, thousands more walking because of the boycott. Many whites are giving rides. One white man is being harassed by a policeman at a robot (traffic signal) for carrying black passengers without a license. He is saying, "Then take me to court." Kumalo is deeply moved at seeing fellow blacks helped in public "by a white man, for such a thing is not lightly done." Msimangu marvels at the audacity of the words, "Take me to court." --NOTE: Strict racial segregation existed in 1946, even if it had not yet been codified by the government as apartheid. What comment can you make about race problems in Johannesburg as illustrated by this incident? Is it an oversimplification to say that the problem can't merely be reduced to black versus white? Are there people on both sides who simply do what they consider right despite the consequences?

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Barron's Booknotes-Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
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