Cry, the Beloved Country

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Cry, the Beloved Country Book II, Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, the police take James to his son Arthur’s house. There, he begins to go through his many papers and books. He marvels at the many invitations his son received, the fullness of his library shelves. He notices that Arthur had owned many books by Abraham Lincoln. He finds a letter indicating that Arthur was the many-time president of the African Boys’ Club.
The reference to Abraham Lincoln—the liberator of American slaves during the Civil War—shows Arthur's influences and gives a picture of his feelings regarding race in South Africa.
Themes
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
James discovers a few pages of a manuscript that Arthur was working on, in which he decried the mining practices so typical in South Africa, the exploitation of laborers and the destruction of their families, leading directly to the corruption of the black population’s structure and the creation of criminals. He also points out that setting aside not enough land for a majority of the population is a dishonest way to go about solving the problem.
This manuscript foreshadows the discovery of more gold in the near future. Arthur also foresees problems with the current mining model, and understands completely where the blame for South Africa’s problems lies—with the original destruction of native Zulu society by the colonizing whites.
Themes
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
After he is finished, James meditates on the text for a while, before getting up and looking at the books again. He picks up a book and reads through Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and then takes the book with him. As he is leaving, he accidently goes through the corridor where Arthur was killed.
James is trying his best to learn about his son, having now lost him. Seeing the stain on the floor reminds James that despite these efforts, his son is lost forever.
Themes
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon