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Setting in Cry The Beloved Country Essay


Many writers use a country setting to establish values within a work of literature. For example, the country may be a place of virtue and peace or one of primitivism and ignorance. Choose a novel or play in which such a setting plays a significant role. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the country setting functions in the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

In, Cry, the Beloved Country, the setting of Johannesburg plays a crucial role in the development of the novel as a whole. Johannesburg is place of opportunity as well as turmoil and the way it consumes the characters is tremendous. Alan Paton was really able to establish the values of the work as whole through his descriptions of the events that took place in the setting of Johannesburg. The way Kumalos family becomes consumed by the setting, the effect that Johannesburg has on Kumalo, and the way Msimangu treats Kumalo all represent how the setting plays such a significant role in the novel. They all serve as an aid to making the novel what it is.

The whole novel takes off because of Kumalos departure for Johannesburg. His son, brother, and sister have all gone there but he has lost contact with them. They go to Johannesburg, and there they are lost, and no one hears of them at all (p. 9). Being a Minister from a small town the idea of losing contact with your family is absurd to Kumalo and the idea really worries him. His family members went off to Johannesburg because they were seeking a better life, All roads lead to Johannesburg (p. 52), but the primitive ways of the city changed who they were. Kumalos sister Gertrude faces adversity and is forced to prostitution which is what ultimately forces Kumalo to go out there. The struggles that are embodied in her because of Johannesburg is a leading factor in how Johannesburg triggers the development of the novel. It forces Kumalo to go through a stage of turmoil, in which he reaches a real low in his life, and because of the people he meets in this experience in Johannesburg, he becomes a better person.

Stephen Kumalo comes from a very quaint town and traveling to Johannesburg is really an experience for him. He is used to being a Minister of the small town of Ndotsheni and going to Johannesburg gives him a wider scope of what really goes on in the world. He goes through a lot while in Johannesburg and even though a lot of his experiences arent good he learns a lot from them and they make him a better man. Who indeed knows the secret of the earthly pilgrimage? Who indeed knows why there can be comfort in a world of desolation?(p 97). Kumalo is still new to Johannesburg and has found nothing good from his experience to that point. At this stage in the novel he was struggling to find good in Johannesburg and was unsure of how could ever be a peace with what he knew about his family up to that point. Kumalos experience in Johannesburg starts out rough , but in the end it only makes him stronger. Pain and suffering, they are a secret. Kindness and love, they are a secret. But I have learned that kindness and love can pay for pain and suffering(p. 261). His state of mind is truly weakened when he learns of what his son has done and what his eventual fate is going to be, but the things like his sister becoming a nun, Msimangu giving him his money, and the things Jarvis does for his town shows that him that charity and honor can come from anywhere. Kumalos biggest lesson was, even though at some points in your life you can become surrounded by evil, good will always prevail even from the most unimaginable places. The things Kumalo learned helped to develop the overall meaning of the novel and contribute to the development of the novel as a whole.

Msimangu is such a strong character in the novel. He really helps guide Kumalo through tough times in a city the can easily corrupt you. The way he helps Kumalo handle Johannesburg truly helped develop the novel as a whole. I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating(p. 70). He knows that Johannesburg has its problems and he also knows that it has its good qualities. He helps Kumalo realize that and his dedication to making the world a better place helps to bring out the true meaning of the novel. He really helps embody what the characters work towards to become better people. In a land of fear this incorruptibility is like a lamp set upon a stand, giving light to all that are in the house(p 158). He never gets corrupted by the treachery of Johannesburg and he helps to prove that there can be good in the darkest of places, there was a brightness in him(p 181). Msimangus great optimism for the city of Johannesburg really sets a precedent for how the other characters should live their lives. He always saw the silver lining and his beliefs really contributed to the work as a whole.

Cry, the Beloved Country, is a very interesting novel because of how important the setting is. It really sets a precedent for how the characters act and it truly turns them into better people. Johannesburg can be a place of peace as well as ignorance and evil but in the end good shines through and creates the meaning of the novel as a whole.

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