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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
All roads lead to Johannesburg. People from various places and various reasons are drawn to this city. The city is bursting with people; there is no space to accommodate more men, yet they keep pouring in. Poverty compels some people to rent their houses. There is no privacy for the growing up children in these homes. People wait endlessly in the hope of their own house, while they go on living in makeshift shelters.
Dubulas’ committee has set up a shantytown in Orlando. The natives are happy even with the sacks and plank houses. However, it is cold outside and the wind comes through the sacks. A child dies of could of cold as its mother watches helplessly; unable to fetch medical help provide a warm shelter.
The shantytown attracts scores of white men who take moving photographs of the slum dwellers and put them in the papers. Meanwhile, the shanty town dwellers are beginning to get worried about the approaching rain and winter and are looking expectantly to the houses being built over the hill to shield them from rain and cold.
An intercalary chapter is introduced at this point to give a microscopic view of the problem faced by immigrates in Johannesburg. People both white and black who keep pouring in from all corneas of South Africa. Using short, jagged sentences, staccato scenes and polymorphous question answer sets, Paton paints a vibrant picture of life in the slums overpopulation, suffocation, poverty, squalor etc. There is poverty and a severe shortage of housing. People live cooped in dingy houses, which afford no privacy for couples and their children. This poverty stricken society can barely afford to survive and affords them no means to campaign and fight against injustice. Their dismal plight is a message to the conscience of many whites, who come to help them. Dubulas is committed to doing something constrictive to solve the housing problem. However, their sack and plank shelters are ineffective to protect their inhabitants from cold and rain and other arrangements will have to be made soon. The picture of the child, feverish and dying in its mothers lap, while strains of "God save Africa" are heard in the background, illuminates the theme of Cry, the Beloved Country. The mothers anguish and helplessness watching her beloved child die is parallel to the slow decay and death of Africa. The symbolism of Africa as a big red wound, which was rendered by soil erosion. The red earth, in the first chapter, is continued here, in terms of human suffering the blood.
Kumalo spends most of his time playing with his nephew, relating tales from his native land. However, there are times, when the thought of his lost son comes to his mind and he feels pensive and desolate. At these moments he is reminded of his village and his brother and this helps him to regain his calm.
Kumalo visits shantytown with Msimangu. A black nurse informs that Absalom had left the town, though they could get some information from Hlatshwayes, the family with whom he had lived. At Hlatshwayes they are told that the magistrate had sent Absalom to the reformatory. Kumalo is crestfallen; Msimangu consoles him that boys are successfully rehabilitated by the reformatory. Kumalo’s gloom is not changed; he asks Msimangu what the woman in Alexandra had told him. The latter confesses that the woman had said that Absalom was involved in illegal activities.
At the reformatory a pleasant-faced white man tells them that Absalom has been released a month back, on account of his good behavior, his young age and mainly because a girl was pregnant by him. Absalom seemed devoted to the girl and anxious for the child to be born, thus the authorities decided to release him. The white man informs that he had found work for Absalom in the towns and had received good reports about him. He takes them to Pimville, where Absalom resides. A young girl is in the house, she says that Absalom had gone to springs four days ago and had not returned since Kumalo is deeply pained; he wishes to take along with him the girl, who is pregnant by his son. However, Mismangu bitterly snubs him, saying that even if his back were as broad as heaven itself, he wouldn’t be able to take the responsibility of everyone. The three men silently leave the house. Msimangu apologizes for his arid outburst and promises to take Kumalo to the young girl again.
Amidst all the frustration of tracing his lost son Kumalo finds a few moments of comfort with his nephew. He lets himself be lost in the innocent child’s world playing with him, narrating to him stories from his native land. It is in this child and in his grandchild, that Kumalo will pin hopes for a brighter future. With the child’s mother, however, Kumalo is distant from the age difference between them, there is also a faint picture of his sisters shameful post that lingers in his memory.
The reformatory and its attempts to restore the natives in spite of all odds, is promising sign. There are conscientious whites who are making attempts to set the wrong right in their own way. However, very often they meet with disappointment, which make them very bitter. It happens in Absalom’s case too. Absalom's who was one of the most promising men in the reformatory, falls to the pressures of the world outside. This makes the white man and Msimangu very bitter. The latter in fact, cannot control his disgust and says a few unpleasant things.
The young girl who has been deserted by Absalom is representative of the many young girls in Johannesburg, who are used, left and forgotten by men. So slight is their existence, that they seem to exist only to satisfy the lust of men and to produce their babies. Kumalo is moved at the sight of the young girl, lonely, hopeless and with a child. He wishes to do something for the girl, for he feels responsible for her. However, Msimangu is bitterly disillusioned and force Kumalo to come out of the house. This episode shows the difference between the two men. Kumalo is patient and suffering; while Msimangu, for all his good- heartedness, is given to impatience and anger. Msimangu is aware of this negative trait and feels that he is not fit to be a priest but God has laid his hand on him.