The Journeys of Fear and Sorrow

Have you read Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton? Read on to learn about the symbolic journeys and references pertaining to the rooting of fear and the embarking of sorrow!

The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “He who has overcome his fear will truly be free.” If one’s fears are quenched, he begins a new journey of sorrow. He is no longer cemented in place and is liberated. Alan Paton’s novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, maps the circumstances of various conflicted characters in South Africa who are shadowed by fear. Fear roots people in place, while sorrow enriches people and allows them to embark on a new journey.

The rooting of fear is demonstrated in Paton’s symbolism, which reflects the bigger picture of the detriment that can be caused by dread and the arrival at an understanding that is derived from sorrow. Using imagery and personifications of light and dark, Paton describes the valley of Umzimkulu as “still in darkness, but the light will come…. For it is a dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing” (312). The darkness cast over Umzimkulu represents the rooting shadow of fear, bringing impoverishment to the people upon the land. Paton shows that the light will eventually appear, showing that the arrival at understanding brings positivity as well as potent to rebuild. The coming of light that never fails represents the quenching of fear through enrichment; once one learns the truth, their fears are confirmed to be true. The dreaded thoughts dissolve, replaced by sorrow. All they can do is embark on a journey that includes rebuilding as much as possible. The link of this symbolism to Kumalo’s relationship with his son, Absalom, is the fear that clouds his mind as he travels from place to place, trying to catch leads on his child’s whereabouts. The detriment caused by the fear is the growing uncertainty of Absalom’s deeds that grow in Stephen’s mind. The dread slowly grows whilst Stephen cannot do anything but search more and more to quench his fears; he is rooted in place. When Stephen learns of the crime committed by Absalom and the death sentence granted to him, there is nothing he can do to prevent the hanging. The sorrow that replaces the fear is now a journey of rebuilding his relationship with his son. Through letters, communication within the family is restored, and Absalom expresses his sadness for leaving his village and giving in to the corruption of Johannesburg (274). Kumalo’s arrival at sorrow is represented through the letters because of the rebuilt relationship he now has with his son. Sorrow sprouted from the fear, bringing positivity and renewed sense into Stephen Kumalo’s life.

Prior to Stephen Kumalo’s ascension into sorrow, Father Vincent describes the transition of fear to sorrow along with potential of Kumalo’s journey, “…your anxiety turned to fear, and your fear turned to sorrow. But sorrow is better than fear. For fear impoverishes always, while sorrow may enrich” (140). Kumalo now knows of the potential of sorrow and the rebuilding process that could occur now that his fear is quenched. He begins to strengthen relations with his son after Vincent put forward a metaphor that sheds light on the enrichment that could happen. “When a storm threatens, a man is afraid for his house… but when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm he can do nothing, but he can rebuild a house” (140). The house represents the link between Stephen and Absalom Kumalo; Stephen fears what his son has done. When the son is eventually condemned, all his father can do is repair their relationship. Rather than being rooted in place and suffocated with anxiety, Father Vincent manages to prod Kumalo into “rebuilding the house”, or the fractured kinship that they carried together years prior. This metaphor represents a new journey of experience and learning. The parallel of this to Kumalo is the rebuilt relationship with his son after he is sentenced to be hanged. Stephen Kumalo is no longer rooted and can move on – he does what he can before his son dies. He could do nothing that would save his son from condemnation besides repair their fractured relationship, which is learned by the arrival of sorrow.

As shown by Alan Paton’s novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, Kumalo’s journey through fear and into sorrow with his son is depicted through symbolic language and his father-son relationship. Fear is shown as a flood of anxiety holding one in place whereas sorrow is an arrival that quenches the fear and can lead to enrichment. Absalom Kumalo’s fate and rejuvenated connection with his father depicts the rebuilding that has occurred following the journey of fear and ascension into sorrow. The characters are rooted in place by fear whereas pushed forward by the coming of sorrow.




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