The politics of repentance in Alan Paton's Cry, the beloved country

Risi, Eugene
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This research project examines the way in which Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country addresses the crisis within South African society in relation to its so called Native Policy, in the years 1940 - 1948. The problems of housing, crime, land depletion, the break-down of tribal institutions etc. were all being debated within the context of various ideological positions. In his novel, Paton makes his own voice felt within the context of a Christian Liberal paradigm. In this regard I have explored the characteristics of Christian Liberalism, its strengths and weaknesses, and its relation to the competing discourses of the period, in particular those of the government's policy of segregation on the right, and the growing strength of the ANC and the Labour Movement on the left. The novel positions itself both in terms of protest and containment, and in terms of what I have called the politics of repentance calls on whites to embrace a more equitable model of society based on Christian and Liberal principles in a spirit of conversion and brotherly love, while eschewing a more radical approach to the dismantling of an order rooted in British colonialism, largely because of the imputed violent implications of such change. Paton's visionary appeal is thus limited by both his own political leanings as well as by the pastoral ideal within which he expresses his inspiration.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of the Witwatersrand, Faculty of Arts, 1999