CHAPTERS 27 TO 29
It is clear that the second murder of a white citizen by a
burglar taints Absalom’s trial.
If this had been an isolated crime, then perhaps the Court may have been moved towards clemency, but the worry is that this type of crime will escalate unless there is a suitable deterrent. Many of the black community were prepared for the worst, but even so, when the death sentence was announced it was still a shock.
Paton makes the point that the road to total integration in
South Africa is a long one, but slowly and surely, bit-by-bit, the segregation of the races will be eroded. This is symbolized by the fact that the young white man from the Reformatory breaks the
longstanding tradition and sits in the black side of the Court. He also visibly helps Stephen Kumalo when he is about to collapse after the sentence is given.
Out of this tragedy comes the ray of hope through the marriage
of Absalom and his young pregnant girlfriend.
She is now genuinely delighted at being part of Stephen Kumalo’s family. It is probably the first real family she has had, and certainly the prospect is that her life can now improve.
Kumalo feels the need to return to his wife as soon as possible
in order to comfort her, but also to escape from Johannesburg, which has brought him so much grief and finally, to move his newfound family away from the influences of the sinful city.
Before he makes the journey, however, he feels he needs to warn his brother John about the dangers he will face if he continues his corrupt way of life. However, when he sees his brother the sense of betrayal returns to him and he cannot resist telling him a small lie in order to frighten him.
The reader might find it strange that Msimangu has decided to
enter a Monastery as it appears like a step back from the field of struggle.
Apparently, he is the first black man to take such a step, and Stephen Kumalo benefits from the move as Msimangu gives him his savings account.
You will recall that Kumalo’s quest in coming to Johannesburg
was to reunite his immediate family. With Gertrude’s disappearance this has now failed. His son will be executed. His sister and brother will stay on in Johannesburg, and both their
fates are in doubt. However, he is not returning home alone. He has now formed a new extended family with Gertrude’s son, a new daughter-in-law and unborn grandchild.
Again we have a symbolic link to the Bible in that Absalom
wishes to name his unborn son, Peter after Jesus’ disciple Peter the rock. The hope is that Kumalo will be able to establish a new community based on the lives of these young people.