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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Kumalo begins to pray regularly in his church for the restoration of Ndotsheni. However he feels that is insufficient; something must be done to improve the dismal condition of Ndotsheni. With this end in mind, he meets the chief of the village. The village chief’s response is lukewarm, and he says reluctantly that he will speak to the magistrate about improving the condition. Kumalo then meets the school headmaster, but is equally disappointed. The headmaster says that the school has little power and economic constraints handicap it from doing anything constructive. Kumalo’s hopes are badly deflated and prays to God to bring about some miracle to salvage Ndotsheni from desolation.
Kumalo meets the late Arthur Jarvis’ son, who is riding past his house. The child is eager to see the person’s house and the priest invites the little boy inside. The boy is thirsty and asks for some milk. Kumalo ruefully says that there is no milk in Ndotsheni. The boy asks Kumalo, why there is no milk in Ndotsheni. Kumalo replies that the people are poor, and children die because there is no milk. Kuluse’s child is dying for he has no milk to nourish his body. The boy hears the umfundisi, solemnly and bids farewell to him.
That night, a cart full of milk cans arrives in Ndotsheni. James Jarvis has sent it. A man informs Kumalo, that he is supposed to distribute the mill to young children. He also tells Kumalo that the milk cans will come regularly to their village till the grass grows in Ndotsheni and they have milk again. Kumalo is beside himself with happiness and laughs for Kuluse’s child will live.
Chapter 2 highlights the change that Johannesburg has brought about in Kumalo. The transformation is seen most glaringly in two of his actions. Firstly, in his initiative to undertake something productive for his village and secondly, the confidence he shows in approaching the chief and refusing the chief’s lukewarm assurances. Kumalo’s exposure to the city has given him an objective stance to view the tribal system and ergo he realizes its shortcomings. He wishes to implement the new things and concepts that he has come across in Johannesburg. The chief’s indifference and the schoolmasters’ helplessness throw a damper on Kumalo’s futuristic vision; but Kumalo is undeterred and prays to God.
Arthur Jarvis’ son is like him in many respects. He shares his fathers’ enthusiasm for learning African language; he also tries to understand the problems of the natives and tries to redress them. He has imbibed humanitarian values from his father and holds a great promise.
Kumalo receives a couple of letters from Johannesburg. One of them is from the lawyer, Mr. Carmichael and it informs, not without compassion that his son would be hanged on the fifteenth of the month. There is a letter, which Absalom has written to his parents and one is addressed to his wife. The final letter is from Msimangu. Kumalo is surprised to find within himself a faint nostalgia for the bustling city of Johannesburg.
Kumalo stands outside his house, trying to look for clouds, although there was no trace of them, on the sultry sky. While he stands a motor car arrives and Jarvis is shocked to see Jarvis and the magistrate steps out of it. The white man, who accompanies the two, begins to plant sticks and flags into the ground. Jarvis examines the bare fields and gives orders that none of the sticks be removed. This queer ritual mystifies Kumalo and villagers. Suddenly, the sky is overcast and began to pour heavily. Jarvis takes shelter in Kumalo’s church. The roof of the church is leaking at many places and Kumalo feels embarrassed. Jarvis asks Kumalo, whether any mercy has been shown towards his son. Kumalo nods ruefully and hands him the lawyer's letter. Jarvis feels sorry for Kumalo and says that he would remember him on the fifteenth of the month.
The chapter shows the gleaming of a brighter future. Happiness and sorrow, birth and death are inextricable and cyclical. So the news of Absalom’s’ imminent execution should be offset by the aid the valley is receiving from Mr. Jarvis. As Absalom prepares to face death, his child in its mothers’ womb is preparing to enter the world. It is a Tennysonian chant the reader witnesses - ‘ringing out the old and ringing in the new’ - both burial of the dead and Easter rising. The first showers of rain are symbolic of the literal rising of the valley. It spells hope and rejuvenation.
Like Kumalo, Jarvis too has learned a good deal about life during his stay in Johannesburg. Jarvis has been largely influenced by his son's writings. So far he has viewed the natives only as commodities, if not anathema like Harrison. Earlier he was aware of the problems of the natives but was not bothered about doing anything for them. Jarvis’ son's death has opened before him wells of compassion and understanding. He has undergone (to use Steinbeck’s phrase) ‘education of the heart’. Hence, instead of avenging his son’s death, he chooses to help the natives, by supplying milk and later by trying to make them self-reliant.
A sudden storm and heavy rain force Mr. Jarvis to take shelter in Kumalo’s church. The storm is symbolic of the tragedy and affliction which has brought two suffering men together - Jarvis who only has wistful memories of his son and Kumalo, who looks at the approaching execution of his son. Although the two men don’t converse much there seems to be a silent communication and understanding growing between them. Jarvis’ refuge in the church makes him notice the ramshackle state of the church, and he decides to build a new church for the village.