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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
Cry, the Beloved Country is a well-knit and tightly structured novel. The plot is developed in three books, each with a similar beginning and a neatly tied up close. The influence of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath is unmistakable. Like Steinbecks’ celebrated novel, Paton's novel too is a ‘social protest novel’. Biblical parallels and intercalary chapters make it closer to Grapes of Wrath in form and content.
The first book opens with an overview of the Umzimkulu valley, and the reader is acquainted with the sad state of the land and its people. The symbolism of the red earth comes handy to present a vibrant picture of Africa oozing blood like an open wound. The very next chapter introduces the chief protagonist, Stephen Kumalo, and the reader is provided information about his family. Paton’s aims to put the glare on the depravity, brutality, crime and hatred that racism breeds in South Africa. So, he immediately connives to bring Kumalo to Johannesburg, the mightiest and cruelest city in South Africa. From that point begins Kumalo’s quest to rehabilitate his family, exposing the readers to shantytowns, native desperation, debauchery and crime. Congruent to Kumalo’s story, seems the story of the nation. Several intercalary chapters are introduced to capture the happenings in 1948 - South Africa. The device helps to show that Kumalo’s tragedy is not an unusual case, all over South Africa families are going to pieces. Characters introduced in the novel express different viewpoints on the South African tragedy and issues.
The second book begins in a tone parallel to the first book, this helps to establish uniformity in the novel. In fact, the same sentences are repeated farming a refrain which makes the skeletal structure of the novel, seem like a poem. The first book shows the white perspective. The idea is to make the two races aware of each other's problems. James Jarvis like Kumalo undergoes great suffering, at the close of the Book II, both men have learned some truths about lives gained in maturity and understanding. In the final chapter, the reader sees that all love strands are tied: Absalom faces persecution, Gestured backslides, Msimangu joins the community and Kumalo leaves Johannesburg with Absalom’s wife and his nephew. The novel comes to full circle with the return to Ndotsheni in Book III. Lessons have been learned in Johannesburg, and now at the time of implementation, the visit of Arthur’s son to Kumalo’s house is contrived to make Jarvis aware of the problems of the villagers. The novel ends on an optimistic note occasioned by the reforms taking place in Ndotsheni. However, for South Africa, warning bells are still sounding and there is a long night before it dawns.