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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Kumalo returns to Mrs. Lithebe’s house tried and dispirited. He has no desire to speak to anyone or even play with his nephew. The white man of the Reformatory comes to meet Kumalo and apologizes for his conduct. He speaks of hiring a lawyer for Absalom, to minimize his punishment. Kumalo and the white man visit father Vincent and discuss what could be done for Absalom. After which the White man departs. Father Vincent tells Kumalo to wait. He wishes to say a few kind words to Kumalo; but finds himself speechless in front of the man who is ravaged by guilt. He lets the poor, old man speak his heart out. Kumalo is given to despair. He vilifies his son acrimoniously for his dastardly act. Father Vincent tries to put some words of sense into the old man, maddened with affliction. He tells Kumalo to pray for his kin, his son, his grandchild to be born; for his village; for the people at Mission House, for those at Enzenzelni and for the whites who want justice for the natives and for the whites who would if they weren’t crippled by fear. As for himself, Father Vincent promises to pray night and day for Kumalo.
The chapter is noteworthy for the obvious use of Biblical parallel. Firstly, Kumalo’s excruciating sorrow and the nailing circumstance around him make him appear like the martyred St. Stephen Secondly, Absalom’s betrayal of his fathers principles and upbringing is similar to the biblical Absalom’s rebellion against his father king David. Kumalo’s mental turmoil reflects on his outside too. He appears lean and bent and walks in slow, weary steps. He admits that he has no strength left to start afresh. However, it is the support of good Samaritans like Father Vincent, who provide comfort in desolation that Kumalo is able to buckle up. Father Vincent helps Kumalo with word and deed. He promises to arrange a lawyer for Absalom and bring about the marriage between Absalom and the young girl, impregnated by him. Above all, he promises to pray for Kumalo and advises him to pray as well, for faith can move mountains. Faith in God and man is what the novel is about.
The next day Kumalo goes to meet the young girl who was bearing his grand child. He asks her whether she is willing to marry Absalom; to which the girl answers in an affirmative. Kumalo asks the girl about her family. The girl's father had deserted her mother, her mother had married another man, but the young girl could not ‘understand’ her stepfather, hence she left the house. The girl also had two brothers, one was in the school and the other in Alexandra. Not able to curtail his bitterness, Kumalo asks her whether she lived with her first man when she fled from her house. The girl tells the priest that she has had three men so far. A tide of viciousness rises in the old priest's heart and he speaks unseemly things to the young girl. However, after saying these things, he is ashamed of his cruelty and puts a fatherly hand on the young girl's head. He expresses his desire to get her married to his son and take her to Ndotsheni. The girl's heart gladdens on hearing this and she readily promises to go with him, even though she will have to lead her life in a quiet, primitive village.
The young girl’s story of abuse and abandonment is typical of most young girls in Johannesburg, girls like Absalom’s mistress exist on the bare fringes of society, unloved and uncared for, existing only to satisfy the sexual desires of men. The fact that all the three men in the girl’s life were criminals reflects the exclusivity of frustration and crime in the slums. Women are forced to bear the brunt of crime, as they are left to fend for themselves and the only avenue available to do so is prostitution. It is this elemental truth that Kumalo understands after making a lewd proposal to the young girl. He sees that it is not sexual wantonness but the trappings of city life that compel women to lead a debauched life. Kumalo’s indecent proposal shows how frustration can entice the gentlest soul with a desire to hurt others. Kumalo, however, is a kind soul and, therefore, quick to realize his folly and the girls. Kumalo’s decision to take the girl to Ndotsheni as his daughter reflects his sense of responsibility. The girl’s excitement at the prospect of living in Ndotsheni proves that she is a victim of circumstance and eager to live a decent life if opportunity presents itself.