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Free Study Guide-Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 5

Summary

Msimangu makes arrangements for Kumalo to live in the house of Mr. Lithebe, an old woman of their church. Over lunch, the assembled priests speak about the sickness of land, the disintegration of families, the crumbling edifice of morals and the white man’s fear of black crimes. Kumalo visibly unnerved by this discussion request Msimangu to tell him about his sister, Gertrude. Mismangu gravely breaks the news that Gertrude has turned a prostitute and sells cheap liquor in Claremont, one of the most degenerate towns of Johannesburg. Kumalo is overwrought with pain. Msimangu consoles him and says that he could probably save his nephew, if not his sister. From this quagmire, Kumalo dejectedly adds that he has also to look for his only son Absalom, and his brother John Kumalo is appalled by his brother’s renunciation of the church, but Msimangu says that there isn’t anything that the church can do to cope with the black man’s crisis. The root cause of the social malaise, according to him, is that the white man has irrevocably broken the black man’s native world and has not created another one, in its place: there are conscientious whites who strive to rectify the damage but they are few in number.

Kumalo is upset by the news of his kin and goes to the church along with Mismangu to find some peace and strength. Later, the priest takes him to Mrs. Lithebe’s house. Kumalo hears the incessant throb of the city and finds it hard to believe that destiny has hurled him from the quiet of Ixopo into the bustling city of Johannesburg.

Notes

The chapter shows the worst fears of Kumalo, coming true. This man from the backwoods has heard and feared from a distance of men turning to crime and women becoming immoral in the big, bad city; but it is from the first time he confronts them from close quarters. His sister's prostitution and his brother's rejection of the church are a seismic shock for this devout person, who comes from a simple, traditional land. Kumalo doesn’t know how to cope with this news the only crutch he has is his religion and he turns to it for support.


What has befallen Kumalo’s family is a case in point of the drastic results of the breakdown of the tribal unit and the consequent loss of values. Thus, it follows that unless the innumerable broken families are restored. There runs a parallel between the break up of the society at large and the break-up of Kumalo’s family, and his attempts at restoring his family is Msimangu who is the primary spokesperson for the novelist explains the central concern of the novel. The whites brought the blacks out of the dark ages, but in doing so they broken his tribe. The tragedy according to Mismangu is not that they broke the tribe but that they never replaced it with anything. Consequently, the black man is suspended between two worlds, "one dead, and the other powerless to be born"; and in this state of limbo, he turns to crime and immorality.

This chapter introduces the character of Mrs. Lithebe, a good old woman with homespun philosophy of kindness. It is in this spirit of kindness that she shelters Kumalo and later accommodates his family, as well. Msimangu is another person in the novel, who is the very milk of human kindness. He helps Kumalo through all his difficult times.

CHAPTER 6

Summary

The next day Msimangu takes Kumalo to Claremont; the squalor and shoddiness of the surroundings daunts Kumalo Msimangu leaves him at Gertrude’s door and waits for him in the house next door. A raucous laughter can be heard from, behind the door, Kumalo apprehensively knocks at the door. There is fear in Gertrude’s eyes as she confronts her brother. Kumalo is angry with her; she pleads that she is not guilty and that extenuating circumstance compelled her to prostitution. Kumalo asks her whether she would like to return home, Gertrude says that though she would love to, she cannot for she is no longer a good woman. Kumalo is touched and he forgives his sister. He inquire about his son, Gertrude replies that he lives somewhere in Sophiatown with their brother John’s son Kumalo tells Gertrude to pack her things. In the afternoon, he returns to fetch his sister and nephew and takes them to Mrs. Lithebe’s house. At the close of the day, Kumalo feels light-hearted; the process of rebuilding his tribe has begun and he looks optimistically towards the things to come.

Notes

Kumalo is introduced to the most decadent side of the city Claremonte, where people live like rats amid unthinkable squalor. The place mirrors the neglect of man and the environment; it is the hotbed of illegal activities and degeneration. The natives do not seem to have come out from the ‘dark ages,’ instead they seem to have regressed, into a state much worse. The grating laughter echoing from Gertrude’s door is the sign of depravity and there is ‘fear in Kumalo’s eyes. There is ‘fear’ also in Gertrude’s eyes when she encounters her brother, who come from the old world, where the laughter is only innocent. When Kumalo shakes hands with Gertrude, her hand is cold and symbolic of her spiritual death. However, Kumalo’s warmth seeps life in it and she is ready to get away from the sickness that plagues people in Johannesburg. There is a significant change in Kumalo as he moves from judgment to sympathy he becomes a step more mature. He is beginning to understand life in Johannesburg and learning to respond to it. The chapter ends on a positive note that Kumalo’s tribe will soon be restored.

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