The novel Cry the Beloved Country is a prophecy for the future of South Africa. It alludes to and sometimes even blatantly states the conditions necessary for the end of apartheid and the beginning of peace. South Africa in the 1940's was in trouble. Kumalo, a priest, was able to see through the prejudices of the world and assess the situation. When inconvenient to involve Kumalo in the investigation, the depth of South Africa's disparity was illustrated directly through the stories of horrifying happenings in character's conversations. Finally, we see that Msimangu was Paton's voice in the novel.
When certain conditions were met Msimangu [and Paton] theorized that peace would finally be plausible in South Africa. As the reader begins to observe the problems, so to will they begin to realize the solutions, and such is the goal of this prophetic novel. Kumalo's constant questing helped to reveal the conditions that plagued South Africa. His particular naivete and trust in mankind was shattered as he was robbed upon first arriving in Johannesburg. We also see that, because of his strong commitment to being a priest, he was not afraid to "dig deep" and talk people into going in directions they didn't want to go. When he was talking to his brother when he first met him in Johannesburg, he continued to reproach him about the customs of Johannesburg, which consequently were revealed neatly.
For instance, after asking a few questions, Kumalo requested to know how Johannesburg could be so radically different that it's existence should nullify all the customs of their people. John's response laid out the freedom and slavery being presented by the white man. On one hand, the people of Ndotsheni "are nobody", but when moved to Johannesburg they are " [men] of some importance" (CTBC, p 66). He also relayed the understanding that "we are not free here... but at least [we are] free of an old ignorant man, who is nothing but a white man's dog" (CTBC, p 67). And so new conflict is presented: the black mans struggle against the white mans oppression. It is also established that its resolution definitely does not lie in the reunification of the tribe: "It is breaking apart, your tribal society.
It is here in Johannesburg that the new society is being built" (CTBC, p 67). Despite these setbacks, Kumalo remained steadfast in his principles and manner of speech regardless of where he was and who he was talking with. (abstract) For instance, he maintained his politeness in spite of the ramifications of his brothers iconoclastic suggestions (as illustrated above): .".. who knows what angry words might have been spoken, but Stephen Kumalo was quick to intervene. Here is the tea, my brother. That is kind of you" (CTBC, p 69) Somewhat similarly, when he is speaking with Absolom's to-be wife, he loses himself briefly, but returns adamant to correct his errors according to his principles: "I am sorry...
I am ashamed that I asked you such a question... do you truly wish to marry my son?" (CTBC, p 147) These constants allow us to view all parts of the book from a single perspective and follow the progression of thought as if it were our own. Therefore, the power of Kumalo's ability to assess the situation at hand in a valid and believable way provides the facts and issues the prophecies of this book are meant to address. Stories also play a large role in developing the atmosphere and revealing the problems and virtues of South Africa. One such story explores the disparity of the people and their sorrow for leaving their homes to live in Johannesburg: .".. why did we leave the land of our people? There is not much there, but it is better than here". (CTBC, p 87) It also conveys the immediateness of the problem illustrated by the repetition of "Shanty town is up overnight" (CTBC, p 88-89) This story is positioned just before Msimangu and Kumalo journey to the shanty town, and so gives the reader the context of the situation they are about to encounter.
When Kumalo and Msimangu are talking to the white man in the car he speaks of how a white man raped a woman and dumped her in the ghetto, and it was the black people that helped her. He also spoke of the great fear the black man had to overcome to get help from white people. This story can represent the whole of South Africa. It is the white men who took South Africa, raped it and blamed their problems on the natives. It abolishes any ignorant person's notion that all white men are good and all natives are bad. As simple as that idea may seem, the (soon to be) apartheid system replaced people's common sense with hatred leaving them incapable of making accurate moral judgements.
This relates in some ways to Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Recall". It speaks of the land as having an 'eternal' power over mankind, and essentially that all wrongs will be righted. With that in mind, one could also apply it to the prophecy speculation and realize that if things were truly not right in South Africa, they would be made right by the land in the end. It is quite conceivable that similar messages could have been conveyed outright through normal chapter introduction's.
Paton's method of revealing the context and atmosphere through stories tends to involve the characters more and make for a closer knit story. Msimangu's words were Paton's thoughts and ideas. His commentary tends to compliment Kumalo's chain of thought and is always one step ahead of his insights: .".. Kumalo followed him silently, oppressed by the grave and somber words". (CTBC, p 71) In this sense, Msimangu is responsible for directing Kumalo's insights and leading him in his spiritual journey throughout the book thereby allowing Paton's views to exist in spite of the different perspectives between the characters.
Part of his guidance of Kumalo included providing him and the reader with partial solutions and allowing them to make the conclusions they must: "I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country come together to work for it". (CTBC, p 71) He also contradicts essentially everything Kumalo experiences of Johannesburg, with a few exceptions. These are the ones who break the customs because they do not believe in them: The man who helped Msimangu and Kumalo when they were walking without a bus, Jarvis and his about face, and the young boy who talked so interestedly with Kumalo. These exceptions are highlighted by Msimangu's words and represent the hope of South Africa. South Africa's fate under the hammer of segregation was uncertain as of the writing of Cry the Beloved Country, and yet Alon Paton was still sure change would come. Kumalo witnessed the disparity of the people and objectively presented these facts to the reader.
Stories present in conversation brought up directly issues that would otherwise be difficult to come about in normal conversation. Paton expressed his views and solutions to the problems through the character Msimangu.