Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
On their way back from Orlando; Msimangu suggests Kumalo that he needs some rest. He proposes to take him along to Ezenzeleni, a place for the blind, where he has to hold a service. In the evening, father Vincent and Kumalo talk about Kumalo’s native land, they are interrupted by a white priest, who gives them the news of murder of Arthur Jarvis, a leading city engineer. The native men are suspected of intruding in his house and shooting him. A widow and two young children survive Arthur Jarvis. There is a despondent silence on every face, sadness and fear well up in everyone’s heart for the gruesome murder of Arthur Jarvis. It seems to represent the death knell for humanity. South Africa cries for its broken tribe and the disappearance of its laws and customs. There is fear in Kumalo’s heart as he plods towards his room. There is a hole in his heart from which no prayer can come or repair; the world at this moment even for the old, devout priest, seems godless.
The cruel irony of the killing of a man committed to the native cause, by a native is the ultimate outcome of lawlessness in South Africa. The death of Arthur Jarvis is a black episode in the novel; it is the waste of a precious life, a life that was a vital congruence between the two races. That the honorable man was killed while he wrote an exposition on the causes of native crime makes the irony more caustic and the situation more desperate. It is at this tragic moment that the Paton illuminates his theme, by defining the title. South Africa cries. It cries for the mindless anarchy let loose. It cries for the injustice and oppression polluting its air. It cries for the death of its traditions, values and justice. The tribal civilization is dead and there is no new order to replace it. Meanwhile, the land turns moldy with weeds of racial apartheid and insurgency. In times like these even the most devout humans like Kumalo and Msimangu sink to despairing depths.
There is fear in the land. Many men have become lawless. Phantoms loom on the horizon making the fear-filled eyes of men blind to the radiance of the sum. The people cry that something must be done but nothing gets done, for there is no affinity of opinion amongst them. Some people raise their voice against the growing crime and press the urgency of beefing up security. There are others who scream that more police is not the answer; the key his in providing a direction, a purpose to the misguided, idle natives. Some think that increased schooling faculty will truncate juvenile delinquency. Others think that it would only produce cleverer criminals. Some argue for enforcing existing laws more strictly. Some argue against it. Some cry hoarse for the demarcation of black and white areas. Some feel that it is impossible and unjust. The whites don’t favor the upgrading of the blacks, for it would imply loss of possession. More importantly, the loss of their superiority and their ‘whiteness’; Hence, they prefer to live in fear, under the shadow of crime and death.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Ndlela informs Msimangu that the police are looking for Absalom. One again, Msimangu and Kumalo follow the old route from Mrs. Mkize to shantytown from there to the young girl at Twenty-third Avenue. The police have checked out at all these places and have come to a dead end because Absalom is relocating. Kumalo is left trembling and cheerless
An intercalary chapter is interjected; to give an overview of the problems faced by the whites. The white man in the process of drawing out the black man from the dark ages has enjoyed the taste of power for. Hence, he is not ready to sacrifice it, or share the platform with the black man. The black man is brought out of the ‘dark’ not into light, but rather to illuminate the life of the whites by digging up gold for them. The black man is frustrated and resorts to crime. The white man is frantic with fear and speaks of more security and more laws. The white man wants to enjoy the fruits of the black man’s labor through he cannot relish it without fear. The situation is alarming, yet nothing can be done about it because of the polyphonic voices, which cannot blend into one harmony. The central motif of ‘fear’ reappears in this chapter.
Chapter 9 illustrated the black man’s fear, his miserable life, his inability to find security under his shelter i.e. peace of mind and freedom from fear. The black mother’s child, in Chapter 9, dies of cold and malnutrition. The white mother of unborn child lives but a dead life unable to enjoy the gifts of nature for inherited ‘fear’ from it parents.
After the short lyrical passage about ‘by for the beloved country’, the narrative continues in a series of short sentences, as Kumalo revisits the houses, he had looked in for Absalom. The use of staccato sentences shows the high degree of tension brewing up and makes the search for Absalom more dramatic.