Cry, the Beloved Country

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Cry, the Beloved Country Book I, Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gertrude’s last possessions are sold off. After this is finished, Msimangu and a young white man approach Stephen and ask if they might speak to him. Inside, the bad news is revealed: it was Absalom who shot and killed Arthur Jarvis, and his cousin, John’s son, was one of the accomplices. The white man says that this will be bad news for the reformatory, who will be blamed for releasing him too early. Msimangu offers to take him to the prison. Stephen agrees, but wishes to visit his brother first.
Absalom was, indeed, the person who shot Arthur Jarvis. Stephen’s fears are confirmed. The white man’s concerns about the fate of the reformatory seem trivial in light of Stephen’s pain. It is cruelly ironic that Absalom’s crime was committed as Stephen searched for him.
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Stephen goes to visit John. John jokes around with Stephen before he hears the news. He is immediately subdued, and then, remembering that Absalom and his own son are friends, becomes afraid. Stephen confirms what John fears—that his son was there as well. Stephen asks if John would like to come with him to the prison, and John says that he would.
John’s joviality is sobered by the realization that his own son is caught up in this same problem. His arrogance has been penetrated: even he can be affected.
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When they arrive at the prison, Stephen and John are separated, and each son is brought to them. Stephen tells Absalom that he has been searching for him everywhere, but he is too late. Stephen takes his hand, but he senses that he is still separated from his son. He asks Absalom why he has done this thing, and Absalom does not know. He asks him why he had a gun with him, and Absalom does not respond. Stephen asks his son whether or not the police know it was him, and Absalom says that he confessed. He says that he was startled by Arthur, and shot him by accident. Stephen continues to press him, and the man from the reformatory presses him, but there are no good answers to any of these questions.
Good district, to bad district, to shantytown, to reformatory, to prison: this is the path of Absalom Kumalo. There are no good answers to any of Stephen’s questions, and this is the tragedy of Johannesburg: that these things are truths, but their causes are too complex to immediately understand or reform.
Themes
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Finally, Stephen asks his son why he chose to do these things. Absalom blames it on his “bad companions.” When Stephen repeats the question, Absalom blames the devil, but in a lackluster way that distresses Stephen. Absalom says that he still wants to marry his girlfriend.
Absalom’s unwillingness to take blame—or inability to articulate its true causes—frustrates Stephen as a man of God.
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As he is leaving the prison, Stephen finds John. John says that he is going to hire a lawyer for his own son, because there is no evidence that his son was in the house with Absalom. Stephen is struck by this cruelty. The young man from the reformatory says that Stephen will have to deal with a lawyer on his own, seems angry, and leaves. Distressed, Stephen decides to seek out Father Vincent.
John betrays Stephen by insinuating that he is going to make sure that his own son escapes punishment for this crime, even though it is clear that he was also there. Stephen follows the way of truth. John, the politician, follows the way of the law. Brother turns against brother, as in the Bible.
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