Beginning the first pages of Cry, the Beloved Country with a portrait of an Edenic landscape that has been marred by human abuse, Paton weaves throughout his whole novel the theme of damaged things that are in need of healing. Beginning with his scorched up native country, he goes on to explore unjust social norms, corrupted political systems, exiled communities, divided families, and spiritually broken individuals. The entire scope of Paton’s “Biblically-structured” novel begs the question, what will bring redemption to this damaged world?
This question captures a truth that I see as a culmination of so many of our discussions in this class: the idea that we should view such problems as holistically as possible. This is precisely why I chose for our last unit theme “A Holistic Look at our Damaged World.” The sources of pain in this world are not merely external issues that can be fixed through social programs and government policies. Yes, I think it is imperative that we engage the world’s problems intellectually, that we are informed about politics and economics, and that we take part in authentic discussion and activism. But, I would argue that we must also address the roots of the evil and the pain of this world, and admit that the world’s suffering begins within each broken individual that inhabits this world. I think if we consider the tragic litany of evils and damage that we have encountered in all of our books, we can be confident of this truth. The systems of the world need healing, but humans also need to experience a kind of healing within our own hearts. Amen?? 🙂
I love what Book 3 in Cry, the Beloved Country has to say on these topics so much that I typically have my students engage with these ideas in a final essay and a final blog post. In addition, I usually give my own “TED Talk” in class (to inspire your own!) that’s inspired by this book’s beautiful ending. Last year during online learning, I actually made a video that brings in a lot of ideas from our final discussions and my planned talk. So, in lieu of doing a full final essay, I’d like you guys to take the time to watch my video and reflect on it in a longer blog post. What “lessons” that I discuss in my video stood out to you? What about Paton’s hopes for a healed South Africa stand out to you as particularly relevant in today’s world? What aspects of Book 3’s “holistic” vision do we need here and now? In your response, make sure you mention details from the video!
I look forward to hearing what you share! And don’t forget to read and comment on the blogs of your classmates, especially considering that we’re missing out on so much good discussion time!