CHAPTERS 22 to 25
Paton brings drama into the Trial scene, which starts with a
general description of the Court so that the reader has a clear picture of the courtroom. He makes is clear from the outset that the only result of the Trial can be the confirmation of Absalom’s
guilt. What has to be resolved is the sentence, which would normally be death by hanging.
Kumalo towards the end of Chapter 22 recognizes James Jarvis,
and he feels afraid in the presence of this man whose son was killed by Absalom.
Because of the prominence of Arthur Jarvis, the whole of
Johannesburg is taking an interest in the Trial for different reasons.
The position of the Church is clear, and they are seeking compassion from the Court and use the Trial as a vehicle for underlining the poor position held by the black community in the city. It is not just the tragedy of one young man, but it is a comment on the whole South African regime, and it must be the South African Government that takes responsibility for this situation. If Absalom is sentenced to death, he is sentenced by the Government and not the South African people.
Although we do not know the situation in the other South African
cities, Paton makes it clear that perhaps Johannesburg is the worst place in South Africa in which to be a native. He suggests this in the line, “No second Johannesburg is needed upon the earth.
One is enough.” This is underpinned by Arthur Jarvis’ manuscript, which is clearly aimed specifically at Johannesburg, but also applies to the whole country.
James has to come to terms with the fact that he too is part of
the problem, and his lack of action has failed his son and his country.
At first he is angry at the thought that he failed his son, but he is determined to make amends and his feelings towards the black community become more caring, and this is illustrated in his actions towards Stephen Kumalo. James intuitively recognizes Stephen’s suffering and offers him comfort, and when he reveals his relationship to Absalom, Jarvis responds positively.
Chapter 23 deals with the gold rush and the prospect that
another Johannesburg will arise in the Orange Free State, as a result.
It will be another sponge to suck out the men from the countryside into the mines, toiling for meager pay, destroying the tribal communities of the countryside, leaving wives and mothers to fend for themselves from a land that will produce less and less sustenance; all this to line the pockets of the white mine owners. These mines will be constructed on tribal land. What will the white people say? “But it is wonderful, South Africa is wonderful. We shall hold up our heads the higher when we go abroad, and people say, Ah, but you are rich in South Africa.”
The success of the mines cannot be achieved unless the
uneducated black natives are duped into coming to the mines and working at subsistence level.
They are persuaded that the grass is greener on the other side of the hill, but once they have made the move to the mine, they cannot return. They are in a poverty trap. The Government should be investing in the land so that it can support the people that live on it rather than exploiting the male population in order to maximize the profits from the extraction of gold.