FEAR and RACE
Throughout the novel, there is a thread of fear running through
the storyline and this is also emphasized in the Chapters and passages that provide a background to the story.
Starting in the village of Ndotsheni we note that the people
live in fear of starvation. The land is unable to sustain the population and provide food. The society is practically devoid of men as they have traveled to the city of Johannesburg or the
gold mines to obtain work. Those left behind are fearful as to the well-being of their loved ones.
As Kumalo travels to Johannesburg, he is fearful of what awaits
him. He finds the city confusing and unsettling, and he dreads what he will find out about his family.
The natives living in the city have left one fear and now face
another. They have the daily task of trying to earn enough money to feed them and there is always the threat that they will lose their jobs. They are frightened to speak out against the
Government’s oppression, for this would lead to violence. Many of the black population resort to a life of crime in order to try and improve their social position.
Kumalo’s son embarks on this path and through fear, murders Arthur Jarvis. We note that whilst in the Reformatory, he was a model inmate, probably because within the walls he was protected from the fear that exists in the city streets.
The white population is also fearful of their situation.
They have obtained their position through violence and wars, amongst themselves and against the Zulu nation. They are in a precarious position because the black population far outnumbers them. Many realize that oppression is not the answer to South Africa’s long-term problems, and eventually integration must happen. However, they too are fearful of the authorities and cannot rebel against the Government by contravening the laws and assisting the black population.
It should be noted that the author of this book was in conflict
with the authorities and was charged with treason.
Paton is at pains to emphasize that the actions taken by the
characters in this book are often driven by fear.
Paton’s fear was that the patience shown by the black population
towards their white overlords waiting for change would be replaced by hatred of the whites.