Cry, the Beloved Country

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Cry, the Beloved Country Book II, Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
James’s daughter-in-law’s brother, John Harrison, meets James and Margaret when they arrive in Johannesburg. John updates them on Mary and the children as they drive to his home. At Margaret's insistence, James heads right to the mortuary. While driving, Harrison brings up the paper Arthur had been writing when he died—“The Truth About Native Crime.” James admits that he and his son did not agree on the issue of South Africa’s blacks, but Harrison assures him that no one considered the issue more thoroughly than Arthur.
The nature and depth of Arthur’s work—and his devotion to it—is beginning to take shape in the understanding of his father. That James and Arthur did not agree sets up the possibility for Arthur, through his writing, to change his father's mind. And in so doing for his father to come to know him better.
Themes
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
When they return from the mortuary, James stays up with Mr. Harrison, John’s father, to talk. Mr. Harrison regales James with tales of Arthur’s many accomplishments and projects, and his commitment to the plight of the South African black population. James marvels that this is like talking about a stranger. Mr. Harrison asks if James would like to change the topic, but James insists that the talk is good for him. Mr. Harrison goes on, saying that he himself didn’t share the same opinion—he is as terrified of crime as the next man—but that he respected Arthur’s conviction. James marvels that it is a strange thing for Arthur, out of everyone, to have been killed by a black man.
James’ astonishment at the irony of Arthur being killed by the people he wishes to help mirrors Stephen’s lament that, of all the astray men in Johannesburg, why was it his son who committed the murder?
Themes
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
When they are done talking, James goes to bed. Upstairs, Margaret is awake. James recounts her with Mr. Harrison’s stories about Arthur. He seems pained by the fact that he knew so little about his son, but glad that he was a good man.
Like Stephen, James’s son was, and will continue to be, something of a mystery to him.
Themes
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon