CHAPTERS 2 – 5
In the village of Ndotsheni, a small girl delivers a note to the
Reverend Stephen Kumalo.
The village is now only occupied by old men and women, or
mothers and young children. All the men have gone to the cities to find work.
This is the case with Kumalo. His sister, brother, and only son have long since left the small village and this letter he has now received will probably only bring bad news about one of his relations.
The letter is from the Reverend Msimangu who writes to say that
Kumalo’s sister Gertrude is very ill in Johannesburg.
Kumalo resolves to travel to the city and his wife persuades him to use the money they had saved for their son’s education. Kumalo is reluctant to do this, but his wife tells him that he will never need to be education, and this makes Kumalo angry. He tries to think the best of his son and suggests that perhaps the white man has not sent on Absalom’s letters, but he soon realizes this is wrong, and repents his anger.
The next day, Kumalo boards the train for Johannesburg. He
is apprehensive about this journey as he views the city as an evil place that appears to consume so many people without trace. The train passes through the gold mines where so many young native men
work long hours for meager pay while the white owners grow fat and rich.
Eventually he arrives in Johannesburg and is confused by the
bustling metropolis. He is swindled by a young man who offers to acquire a bus ticket for him.
He takes a bus to the Mission House in Sophiatown, a suburb of Johannesburg, and he meets the kind young Msimangu.
The two have a long discussion concerning the problems facing
South Africa and how the old values have been lost, and the tribal system has broken down.
Gertrude’s illness is not physical, but moral.
She has become a prostitute. Kumalo is deeply hurt by this revelation, particularly as she has a young son. Kumalo’s brother John has become a powerful politician in Johannesburg, but has turned his back on the Church. Msimangu tries to comfort Kumalo by telling him that the breakdown of his family is similar to the breakdown being suffered all across South Africa.
Msimangu takes Kumalo to Mrs. Lithebe’s house who has agreed to
take the priest in whilst he stays in Johannesburg.