Friday, March 22, 2013

The role of a parent

In Book I of Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton displays a variety of strong themes and motifs that move the story line. At this point in the novel, the role of a parent seems to be the most prominent and definite theme that has been shown. When Absalom Kumalo left his home and family, he turned into a life of crime with acquaintances that did nothing but destroy his character and morals. Because of this fact, his father, Stephen Kumalo, has suffered from the guilt of failing his son and being a dishonorable parent in general. Throughout the book Paton shows the negative and positive effects of parenting and how it determines the path of a child.

            Paton displays Kumalo’s true guilt and shame towards his son while he is speaking to Father Vincent. When Kumalo describes Absalom as “the greatest evil [he has] known,” the anxiety of being the parent of a murderer shines through his character as expected. Kumalo is somewhat blaming himself for his sons actions, because he is the person that allowed Absalom to leave his home and community. Even though Kumalo is supposedly a strong and honorable man of God, the world’s trials regarding parenting are causing him to sway away from his morals and fear God’s will. In this moment Paton is showing that no parent is perfect, and that it is easy for a parent to blame themselves for their child’s mistakes.

            Another strong key of parenting that Alan Paton presents is never giving up for children. Throughout Book I, Stephen Kumalo goes through hell and back to aid his son in every possible way. In Chapter 14, in a conversation with Absalom, Kumalo says powerfully, “I have searched in every place for you.” This statement alone allows the power and strong will of Kumalo’s parenting to show. Even though Absalom did everything against his father, Kumalo still loves him enough to fight for his well-being. Paton symbolizes an admirable parent through Kumalo’s actions in order to strengthen his character and show his good will.

            In Chapter 6, Alan Paton acquaints another side of parenting with the reader through Stephen Kumalo’s sister Gertrude. Because of her awful ways, her role as a parent has weakened greatly. When Kumalo goes to visit her, it becomes quite obvious that she is no longer the mother that was before. Even though she argues that all her action are “for the child,” the reality is that she is placing her child in the worst environment possible. Paton uses this demonstration to contrast Kumalo’s fighting love for his son, and shows that parenting is not always an easy situation.

            All things considered, Alan Paton displays the role and actions of a parent to be a cardinal theme in the first half of Cry, the Beloved Country. Paton not only contrasts different types of parenting between different people, but also shows that the same parent can utilize different styles of guidance and love, depending on their situation and view of morals.


  1. I think it's interesting here that Paton chose the name "Absalom," a direct reference to the biblical King David's son. Although the biblical Absalom killed a man and raised an army against his father, David never stopped loving him and hoping for his salvation.

    Nice job!

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