The problems facing South Africa are symbolized by groups of
characters in the plot and their abilities to change. For South Africa to evolve and become part of the modern world it needs to change from the position it was in after the Second World War.
Against this change stood the Nationalist Party symbolized
through the character of Harrison, Senior.
He is portrayed as one of the old school, a colonist and ruler of the uneducated black race. He does not see them as proud Zulus, but as ignorant natives only fit to serve the Imperial regime.
At the other end of the scale, we have the tribal system ruled
by the Zulu Chiefs. The Chief in the Umzimkulu Valley is also incapable of change. He is but a figurehead who has watched the tribal system disintegrate.
The characters that symbolize the changing face of South Africa
are Stephen Kumalo and James Jarvis.
The events they witness steel them to adapt and change where previously their view was to passively accept the situation. Jarvis is inspired by his son’s work to bring justice to all the peoples of Johannesburg. It is only after his son’s death that he realizes the esteem he was held in by all races.
When Stephen Kumalo travels to Johannesburg it is to try and
recreate the tribal system by bringing together his family once more.
He quickly realizes that this is not possible for he loses all three members of his family who cannot make the transition back to the way things were. Inspired by the words and work of Msimangu, Kumalo is rejuvenated and although he does not know how he will solve the problems of his village, he will try harder to do so when he returns. He returns home with a new family who are the new hope for the future.
The plight of the village is alleviated by Kumalo’s
determination and co-operation with James Jarvis, and the conditions of his people improve steadily. Paton’s point here is that progress can only be made by bringing about change in systems and in
people, and with blacks and whites working together for a common goal, not leading separate existences.