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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Stephen Kumalo waits at for the train his mind is frothy with anxiety. Through a friend, Sibelco requests that Kumalo inquire about his daughter in Johannesburg. Sibelco was afraid to approach Kumalo himself because he did not belong to Kumalo’s church and therefore has sent the message with his companion. The train huddles and halts at Carisbrooke with a strange mixture of black travelers. As Kumalo enters the carriage, people make way for him, seeing his clerical collar. He tells the man that he will look for Sibelco’s daughter, in a tone fully conscious of the impression cast on the rudimentary on-lookers. However, as the train rolls on, vanity slips away, replaced by the fear of things known and unknown, making the old Kumalo reach out for the only straw of certainty in his splintering world, his Bible.
In the life Paton works on the details of the backdrop with much care, the landscape reveals something beyond itself a condition in which human beings find themselves. The cold and gloomy valley with a certain mystery annexed to it is reflective of the desolation of the people. Who are left forlorn by their children and oppressed by the unfriendly soil. The bleakness of the outer world finds its echo in the inner world of the man’s soul. Fear, stark-naked fear is the emotion which seethes in the deepest recesses of the souls, of men and women in the novel and in different circumstance the reader find the fear of their souls, mirrored on their faces. At the onset of his journey, Kumalo is rankled by an unnerving premonition of the things to come; he has fears about his son and about his sister and looming over them the fear of the slow death of his own world.
Kumalo’s little deception of projecting to the simple natives that, he is an important man, who frequently visits Johannesburg, shows a subtle diversion of his nature; for in his own village, he would have never let vanity affect him. However, Kumalo is quick to realize his folly and turns to the Bible for its honest and old-world values. This behavior pattern, the reader sees throughout the novel, whenever Kumalo gives in to human weakness or he is pained, he turns to the Bible and the church.
The case of Sibelco’s daughter serves to illustrate that Kumalo’s suffering is not an isolated example; it is a part of the all pervasive splintering of the native family and the native world. Paton uses Kumalo’s story to personalize the South Africa tragedy, just as Steinbeck had used the load family to personalize the Dust Bowl tragedy. The utility of this exercise is to arouse empathy in people; as Steinbeck once remarked that it doesn’t matter to us if the reader knows that a thousand Chinese are dying but it does matter to us if the reader knows at least one Chinese, who is dying.
The train rolls past verdant hills and sprawling valleys and arrives at Pietermaritzberg at the break of dawn, it is seemingly a different country and the landscape displays a panoramic mutation. There are gargantuan mines, huge building, tunnels and innumerable railway lines all around and Kumalo is awestruck by the sheer dynamism of mechanization. The clamor of vehicles and the sea of humanity surging through the streets makes Kumalo’s head reel as he stands exposed to the onslaught of city life. Tired and groggy, he prays to the Holy Spirit to watch over him. Kumalo’s first encounter with the city is a bad one; a city rogue offers to fetch him a bus ticket, and the simple country person unsuspectingly hands him a pound, only to discover at length that he has been fleeced. Taking pity, a kind businessman Mr. Mafaloo escorts Kumalo to Sophiatown. At Sophiatown, Kumalo meets the young priest Reverend Msimangu and takes an instant liking to him. After a long, weary journey Kumalo feels relived and secure under the hospitality of Msimangu.
The landscape undergoes a symbolic change; the simple native world recedes and is followed and overpowered by the White man’s world. The white man’s cosmos is radically different; railway lines, towering buildings, multiple streets, mines and slag heaps; mechanization has violated the natural beauty.
Kumalo is immediately introduced to the corruption of the city. When he is scammed by a city-rogue. The Old World values of morality integrity and honesty have become defunct in Johannesburg, and in its place a cult of corruption and crime has evolved. This is Kumalo’s first contact with the city, from here on Kumalo will learn many good and bad things about the city. It is not unimportant that Kumalo’s are bad encounter is followed by two kind ones. Mr. Mafaloo’s kindness and Reverend Msimangu’s hospitality show that even in this impersonal and contaminated city, there are people who are kind and just.