Essay Question #2
It has been said that the land is itself another character in Paton's novel, Cry, the Beloved Country. What role does the landscape play in the novel? What does the valley surrounding Ndotsheni represent?
"Keep it, guard it, care for it, for it keeps men, guards men, cares for men. Destroy it and man is destroyed" (Paton 33). In Cry, the Beloved Country, this bold statement reflects both the beauty of the land of South Africa and the peace and harmony of men. Both of their relations are solely dependent on the care that they receive and as of now, these relations are strained. Although Alan Paton never directly declares the importance of the land, the repetition of, "There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into
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The emphasis of the beauty of South Africa represents the hope for change in Ndotsheni and social change; Msimangu said, the "
one hope for our country
is when white men and black men
come together to work for it'" (Paton 71). With a land as glorious as South Africa, mistreatment, not being "
kept, or guarded, or cared for,
," can ruin it in a brief moment, but rebuilding it is progressive and takes a thousand moments to compensate for the devastation that maltreatment causes (Paton 34). It would be impossible for the people of Ndotsheni to grow field after field of maize that reaches a height taller than man overnight. These changes and improvements must be gradual and involve the continuous effort of everyone. The bond between the blacks and whites is similar because it is also devastated, and every step that is taken brings their tolerance and respect closer together. For instance, James Jarvis' grandson donated "
milk, in shining cans in the cart" to the natives of Ndotsheni and when Margaret, Jarvis' wife, passes away, the people of the church in Ndotsheni each contribute to make a suitable wreath for her (Paton 271). Also, James Jarvis knew that due to the lack of education, the people of Ndotsheni were inept at cultivating their lands, and therefore, cause them to be, "
red and bare; they cannot hold the rain and mist, and the streams are dry
" (Paton 33). However, he then hired the young demonstrator as a gesture of understanding and benevolence