The use of Biblical allusions and references is evident in Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country. Against the backdrop of South Africa’s racial and cultural problems, massive enforced segregation, similarly enforced economic inequality, Alan Paton uses these references as way to preserve his faith for the struggling country. By incorporating Biblical references into his novel, one can see that Alan Paton is a religious man and feels that faith will give hope to his beloved country. Throughout the entire novel, Alan Paton continuously uses references to the bible and while some are not very apparent, most of them are considerable evident.
Four apparent references that he uses are seen in Stephen Kumalo’s character, Absalom’s decisions to name his unborn child Peter, Stephen Kumalo questioning the ways of God, and Stephen finding his son. At the start of the novel, Alan Paton introduces Stephen Kumalo, a native priest in the small village of Ndotsheni. The reader soon learns that he is the protagonist of the novel. He is a modest and good man, and has a deep reverence for the old customs, and he hates no one, even the white men who have oppressed his people. But as the novel progresses, he becomes more sensitive to racial injustice.
When Stephen returns to Nodotsheni towards the end of the novel, things begin to change and improve for his people. Stephen is somewhat responsible indirectly for this change. His relationship with James Jarvis, and his conversations with the small white boy brought his town milk and better agriculture among other things. In the Bible, Stephen was chosen among six others to help restore a complaint towards a group of Jews, who neglected to give a daily distribution of food to their widows. “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6-8).
In both instances, Stephen was seen as a man full of spirit and wisdom. In addition, they both resolved a predicament among their people. The good spirit and wisdom that were in Stephen were apparently not passed down to his son, Absalom. Absalom left his family and his town of Ndotsheni in order to move out and live in Johannesburg. Unfortunately, this was not in his best interest. Absalom began to affiliate himself with the wrong crowd. He led a life of robbery and petty crime, and ultimately murder Arthur Jarvis when caught breaking into his house. He was prosecuted and sentenced to be hanged.
In his last conversation with his father, he makes a request to name his unborn child Peter if it was born a boy. In the Bible, Peter was an apostle of Jesus Christ. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (I Peter 3). Absalom knows that his time on earth is ending, and he feels that his unborn child is his only chance and opportunity to be vindicated of his sins. He wants his son to grow up in his hometown and live the life that he took away from himself by leaving Ndotsheni.
Absalom wants his child not to follow in his footsteps. For these reasons, Absalom wants to name his unborn child Peter with reference to the Peter in the Bible. When Stephen began his journey to Johannesburg, he was looking for his lost son. John Kumalo would ask him “Have you found the prodigal” (Paton, 128) with reference to the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the Bible. In the Bible it states that a man with two sons lost one after he left to live on his own. After a couple of years, the lost son realizing his wrongdoing came back and was welcomed by his father with a feast to celebrate his return.
This angered the other son who felt betrayed when his brother left. But the father did not care; he was so overjoyed to have gotten his son back. “My son’ the father said, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'” (Luke 15:31). In this same sense, Stephen was so overjoyed to have found his son, that the murder charge did not enter his mind at first. His son was lost and now is found. After discovering Absalom’s wrongdoing, Stephen later questioned the ways of God during a conversation with Father Vincent.
He said that he did not see it coming, and it was not revealed to him, the person to whom it mattered. While others who did not care, saw the mishaps but to them, it was normal. In Johannesburg they were use to boys going wrong. Stephen feels that God has turned away from him. Father Vincent is quick to reply “That it may seem to happen. But it does not happen, never, never, does it happen” (Paton, 140). In the Bible, “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).
Satan proposed a challenge to God to see if the man would curse in God’s name. Satan took away everything that Job possessed. Job still praised the lord and did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. This Biblical reference contrasts the views of Stephen and Job on the ways of God. While one man questions God’s actions, the other praises him for what was given to him before it was taken away. At the same time it compares the views of Job and Father Vincent. Both men hold the belief that everything that God does is for a reason and no one should comprehend the ways of God.
With the four apparent references mentioned above, it is clear how Alan Paton used Biblical allusions in Cry, the Beloved Country. These allusions helped support many of the key points and themes that were made in the novel, as well as a better understanding of the characters. Stephen Kumalo disposition was more apparent. It was evident to see what Absalom wanted by naming his unborn child Peter. When finding his son, it was easy to see how much it meant to him. The Biblical references made the novel more enjoyable and more comprehensible.