Cry, the Beloved Country

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Cry, the Beloved Country Book I, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A town hall meeting is underway. Citizens lament how their taxes have not gone to keeping them safe, that the death of Arthur Jarvis is the second murder in six months. A voice asks a citizen to read a resolution. The citizen announces that the black population, because of their lack of structure, has turned to crime, and until the white population decides whether or not they want an organized black population or a lawless one, they must increase police protection for themselves.
Most of these voices throughout this chapter firmly and repeatedly miss the point. Unwilling to shoulder the blame or responsibility, the white citizens talk about increased police protection. They mention the lack of structure, but conveniently forget that it was them who destroyed the black's original society.
Themes
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
Another conversation: the chorus brings up the question of education. Some ask how many black children attend school. The numbers are low, and even those who attend only go so far. When asked who will pay the money for increased education, the chorus debates that also—some say whites should pay, because if they do not, they will “pay more heavily in other ways.” Others argue that school just makes smarter lawbreakers. A couple argue over the presence of black people at the zoo and other recreational places. They don’t want to mix with them, but there’s nowhere else for them to go.
Again, the voices approach a point, but shy away from it too soon. The voices dramatize the fears and threats that lead in a spiral toward apartheid.
Themes
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
The chorus cries out for apartheid, to separate the white people from the black people, and let them go their separate ways and govern their own affairs. But then what will happen when the blacks so outnumber the whites, but the whites do not want to give up their power or dominance? No one knows the answer. And so they give up wonderful things, like walks at night, and accept the way the world is, even with these losses. And people meet everywhere, crying out for different means for dealing with “native” crime, including a symposium on the issue, at which the late Arthur Jarvis was to be a speaker.
Because they fail to understand the root of the problem, the solution is also deeply flawed: segregate the population. And so everyone gives up living safely because they refuse to address the true issue, because they would rather suffer than admit mistakes. It is ironic that the symposium meant to discuss these problems was to be headlined by the murdered activist.
Themes
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
A woman comes to Msimangu, telling him the police were looking for Absalom. Msimangu tries to deal with this without telling Stephen, but Stephen sees him going out. Msimangu hesitates, but then tells Stephen what he knows. They decide to re-trace the previous path they used to search for Absalom. Msimangu insists on paying for the cab. At each location, they learn that the police have been there, until they reach the home of Absalom’s pregnant girlfriend. There, they learn that the police believe that the trail has ended. Back in the cab, Stephen is shivering, and insists that he is cold. Msimangu offers to take him back to Mission House to warm him up.
Stephen’s fears are becoming confirmed. They retrace their prior steps, which are made more threatening now that they know they are also retracing the steps of the police. Stephen knows deep down that something terrible is about to happen, but he doesn’t admit this to Msimangu.
Themes
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
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