Cry, the Beloved Country

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Arthur Jarvis Character Analysis

– The man murdered by Absalom Kumalo. The novel never shows Arthur while he is alive, but portrays his character through his many papers and correspondences read by Arthur’s father, James. He was an activist who believed that white men had done the black population a great disservice by tearing apart their communities and giving them an unfairly paltry amount of land, leading to the epidemic of violence and fear that now plague South Africa.

Arthur Jarvis Quotes in Cry, the Beloved Country

The Cry, the Beloved Country quotes below are all either spoken by Arthur Jarvis or refer to Arthur Jarvis. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of Cry, the Beloved Country published in 2003.
Book II, Chapter 20 Quotes

The old tribal system was, for all its violence and savagery, for all its superstition and witchcraft, a moral system. Our natives today produce criminals and prostitutes and drunkards, not because it is their nature to do so, but because their simple system of order and tradition and convention has been destroyed. It was destroyed by the impact of our own civilization. Our civilization has therefore an inescapable duty to set up another system of order and tradition and convention. It is true that we hoped to preserve the tribal system by a policy of segregation. That was permissible. But we never did it thoroughly or honestly. We set aside one-tenth of the land for four-fifths of the people. Thus we made it inevitable, and some say we did it knowingly, that labour would come to the towns. We are caught in the toils of our own selfishness.

Related Characters: Arthur Jarvis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Johannesburg, Money/Gold, Earth/Land
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

James Jarvis has gone to Arthur's house and has looked through his books and papers, noting many books on Abraham Lincoln and documents indicating Arthur was President of the African Boys' Club. James also discovers a manuscript that Arthur was working on when he died. In this passage from the manuscript, Arthur describes the way in which European colonization "destroyed" the tribal communities of South Africa. From a contemporary perspective, Arthur seems rather forgiving of the white colonizers––he labels the policy of segregation "permissible," and describes the tribal system in typically racist terms, calling it full of "violence and savagery." However, for a white South African to be writing such a passage at the time would have been highly unusual. 

Arthur's critiques of the destructive legacy of European colonialism cohere with observations made throughout the novel, particular his statement that black South Africans remain stuck in a cycle of violence because "their simple system of order and tradition and convention has been destroyed." Furthermore, Arthur presciently identifies the fact that segregation was enacted in a dishonest way. He argues that the highly inequitable division of land forced people to come to the towns for work; as the rest of the novel shows, this mass influx of people has created further poverty, violence, and crime. 

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Book II, Chapter 23 Quotes

For mines are for men, not for money. And money is not something to go mad about, and throw your hat into the air for. Money is for food and clothes and comfort, and a visit to the pictures. Money is to make happy the lives of children. Money is for security, and for dreams, and for hopes, and for purposes. Money is for buying the fruits of the earth, of the land where you were born.

Related Characters: Arthur Jarvis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Money/Gold, Earth/Land
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

James Jarvis has gone to Arthur's house and has been reading from Arthur's unfinished manuscript about the socioeconomic problems plaguing South Africa. Arthur has described how European colonialism destroyed the indigenous tribal system of South Africa, thereby leaving native South Africans without a community through which to structure their lives. In this passage, Arthur turns his focus to the mines, arguing that the riches of the mines should be "for men, not for money." This distinction alludes to the problem of pursuing money for its own sake. As Arthur explains, money has many necessary uses––"food and clothes and comfort," "security," and "buying the fruits of the earth." In one sense, this passage emphasizes the importance of money, implying that without sufficient income, people will suffer. 

On the other hand, this passage also serves as a warning against greed. As Arthur argues, money is not valuable in itself; rather, it is only valuable because of the good things it can bring to people. The implication of this statement is that it is very possible to have too much money. Arthur's statement that money should be used for "purposes" sounds vague; however, it takes on a deeper meaning within the context of global imperialism. Many people today observe that the driving force behind colonization was greed––European colonizers identified an opportunity to grow rich through the exploitation of natural resources and the labor of indigenous populations, and developed colonial systems and racial philosophies accordingly. 

Book II, Chapter 24 Quotes

One can read, as I read when I was a boy, the brochures about lovely South Africa, that land of sun and beauty sheltered from the storms of the world, and feel pride in it and love for it, and yet know nothing about it at all. It is only as one grows up that one learns that there are other things here than sun and gold and oranges. It is only then that one learns of the hates and fears of our country. It is only then that one's love grows deep and passionate, as a man may love a woman who is true, false, cold, loving, cruel and afraid.

Related Characters: Arthur Jarvis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Earth/Land
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

James has returned to Arthur's house to read again from the manuscript his son was writing when he was killed. He has reread the exact passage Arthur was composing when he was shot, before turning to another essay Arthur had previously written. In this essay, Arthur describes his childhood naïveté about South Africa. He writes that children are shown only a very narrow view of the country, one that emphasizes its natural beauty but ignores the social strife and other problems that plague the nation. Somewhat surprisingly, Arthur then argues that it is only after discovering these harsh facts about South Africa that is possible to truly love the country. 

This passage suggests that Arthur is the kind of person who Msimangu described as representing hope for South Africa's future––someone who is not motivated by the desire for money or power, but rather by a deep, honest love for the country. On the other hand, Arthur's description of his love of South Africa does seem particular to a white South African experience. Stephen's love of his country, for example, does seem to dwell much more in the natural landscape and tribal system that existed before European colonization. Unlike in Arthur's case, this love does not emerge from childhood naïveté, but from the fact that this is the version of South Africa with which Stephen and his ancestors are familiar. 

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Arthur Jarvis Character Timeline in Cry, the Beloved Country

The timeline below shows where the character Arthur Jarvis appears in Cry, the Beloved Country. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book I, Chapter 11
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
The priests who knew the deceased, Arthur Jarvis, openly mourn his loss. They say that he was a good man. Father Vincent... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 12
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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
...for dealing with “native” crime, including a symposium on the issue, at which the late Arthur Jarvis was to be a speaker. (full context)
Book I, Chapter 14
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 18
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
When he arrives home, the policeman is there. He gives James the bad news—his son Arthur has been murdered that very afternoon, shot dead in Johannesburg by a burglar. Stupefied by... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 19
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 20
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
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... (full context)
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
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,... (full context)
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...the book with him. As he is leaving, he accidently goes through the corridor where Arthur was killed. (full context)
Book II, Chapter 21
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Christian Faith Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
Arthur’s funeral is held a few days later. The church is filled with people from every... (full context)
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...was good to talk to him. Mr. Harrison reiterates that though he didn’t agree with Arthur, he respected him deeply. (full context)
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Christian Faith Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...day, James awakes to the news that the servant who had been knocked unconscious at Arthur’s home was awake and had identified some details about the killer that was leading them... (full context)
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
Mid-sentence, the manuscript ends. James ponders the ideas that Arthur had written there, and feels like he is beginning to understand him better. Then, James... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 22
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...the servant was home, and how they had to knock him unconscious. And then how Arthur came downstairs, and how, in fear, Absalom had shot him. (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
After talking about Arthur’s death and Absalom and his accomplices’ subsequent flight, the judge interrupts the prosecutor and asks... (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Christian Faith Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...when the police came searching for one of his co-conspirators, Absalom confessed to having shot Arthur, since he had repented for his sin and had sworn to not do evil again. (full context)
Book II, Chapter 24
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
James returns to Arthur’s house. He goes through the passage again, the one where Arthur had been killed, with... (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...but then returns to the study and papers and finishes reading them. In the papers, Arthur asserts that he is compelled by rightness to do good by his country, compelled by... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 25
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...seeing him. Stephen hesitates, and finally reveals that it was his son, Absalom, who murdered Arthur. James leaves for a moment, walks into the garden for a long moment, and then... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 28
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...other two men in question, Absalom’s cousin and the other accomplice. Despite the fact that Arthur’s struck-down servant identified one of them, the judge maintains that this evidence is not conclusive,... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 29
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...leaves a large sum of money to John Harrison to start a club, possibly in Arthur Jarvis’s name. (full context)
Book III, Chapter 31
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Christian Faith Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...house. Stephen invites him inside. Stephen knows who the boy is—he recognizes the son of Arthur Jarvis, grandson of James Jarvis. The boy asks for ice-cold milk, and when Stephen explains... (full context)