Two Sides of Similarity
In most stories told there are two main characters, one, a protagonist or hero of the story and one, an antagonist, one who might be considered the villain, although that is not always the case. Within the novel Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton the concepts of protagonist and antagonist are pushed to the side as the author instead creates parallel lives for the two main characters, Stephen Kumalo and James Jarvis. This parallel framework develops Paton's theme throughout the novel of inequality of the races although the basic situations of the lives of these two characters are parallel in many respects.
There is one main similarity between the two characters that creates an intense parallel feeling is the fact that both Kumalo and Jarvis have a son. Both of these parents lose their sons to unfortunate circumstances, James' loosing his son to the gun wound caused by a shot fired from Stephen's son's gun. After that fact, when Stephen's son Absalom was on trial he received his sentence from a judge in which Stephen lost him as James' had loses his son, "I sentence you, Absalom Kumalo, to be returned to custody, and to be hanged by the neck until dead. And may the Lord have mercy upon your soul" (Paton 236). Both these parents loved their sons very much and even though Kumalo is native and Stephen is white both of them are the same, parents who lost their only children. Both are subjected to the same feelings of sadness and despair at the loss of their sons, they may be unequal in racial equality but what makes them human in emotions are the same.
It is along these lines of emotion I see James Jarvis and Stephen Kumalo similar in the way they conduct themselves in a parallel fashion. Both, especially James near the end of the novel help others in the only ways they know how. James, having more money than Stephen is able to assist the natives of Stephen's village in a material fashion, providing them with milk until they are able to make milk by themselves when green grass comes again, an agricultural teacher sent to teach about new farming techniques, a dam that is to be eventually built so that the natives of Kumalo's village will never be without water again and one more thing, something that Kumalo himself holds dear. This last gift that was given to their village occurred only after Jarvis' wife passed away, "It was one of her last wishes that a new church should be built at Ndotsheni…" (296). These gifts that Jarvis gives to the people of Ndotsheni are similar to what Kumalo does for his village, however instead of material gifts Kumalo is merely a parson, offering only what prayers and kind words he can to his people. Kumalo, in trying to put his tribe, his own family back together is only able to pray for others. He is able to forgive his family's misgivings, especially his sister Gertrude, who worked as a prostitute, and he finds forgiveness in his heart. "God forgives us, he says. Who am I not to forgive?" (61). Kumalo firm belief in God and forgiveness and his ability to pray even when it seems that prayers would be useless is like Jarvis's ability to help when it seems that the assistance he brings will do no good at all. This of course is not true as the help he brings the natives is greatly needed and appreciated by those he is helping.
Kumalo and Jarvis really do lead parallel lives through what they do and say, even if it is different as to how they go about doing what they do and how their situations end up connected and the same. Both of them through all the inequalities exhibit the same basic souls and characteristics that make everyone equal, that make them both human. Both are forced to suffer and deal with the suffering and both help out others in the best ways, perhaps the only ways they know how and are able to do. Neither is antagonist and neither a protagonist, both are what the author meant them to be, human.