CHAPTERS 8, 9 and 10
Kumalo’s journey through these Chapters in search of his son
provides him with more information regarding the society in Johannesburg.
The first instance is the bus boycott where he meets the leader
of the movement Dubula.
This is really the first black person who is not a minister that Kumalo has met who works for the benefit of the native society. He is dedicated to bringing reform. He poses a real threat to the Government because he cannot be corrupted, unlike John. It is interesting to see how the white people react to the boycott. Some feel threatened at the united front shown by the native population in refusing to pay the fare increase, and so they show solidarity by giving lifts to the black commuters. No doubt some of the whites do this out of compassion for the black people, recognizing the injustice behind the fare increase.
Kumalo’s search for Absalom is punctuated with fear, in
particular from the landlady who does not wish to be implicated with Absalom. She refers Kumalo to the taxi driver. Kumalo is slowly coming to terms with the fact that his son has left his
work in the factory in order to pursue a life of crime.
His journey takes him to the Reformatory where he is given some hope with the news that his son was a model inmate, and that he appeared to be loyal to a young girl he had made pregnant. However, it transpires that he has deserted the girl when they locate her.
Chapter 9 is similar to Chapter 1 in that it does not enable to
plot to develop, but merely is a series of short, abrupt scenes that document the misery endured by the natives in the shantytown. Their lives are a day-to-day struggle for survival.
If the reader did not realize it before, Chapter 9 brings it home that this book is not just a story concerning the Kumalo family, but about the greater picture of South African life in 1948 and right through the years of apartheid. Perhaps the point that Paton is making is that peaceful revolt through bus boycotts and shantytown life will bring a more positive response from the white man in the street, whereas violence would only increase oppression.
Although much of this part of the book deals with Kumalo’s
search for his son, he does take time out to converse with his sister and her son. In the young boy he sees hope for the future and perhaps he can do more for his nephew than he did for Absalom.
We are mindful that Paton tries to strike a balance, and so far his
criticism of the system in South Africa at this time is aimed at the Government. Paton also views the Reformatory in a positive light where the staff members are shown as kind and constructive, and
it is clear that Absalom responded positively to this approach whilst he was there. The Director of the Reformatory assists Kumalo in locating Absalom’s girlfriend, and we sense that he is just as
disappointed in Absalom’s desertion as Kumalo is.
Paton also paints a poignant picture of the young girl who has been born and bred in Johannesburg. There seems to be no happiness in her, and
she has been reduced to the depths by the degradation that surrounds her.