Nature vs. Nurture in "Cry ,the beloved Country"

Essay by Norml ToddA+, February 1997

download word file, 3 pages 4.7

Psychologists often battle on the idea of 'Nature vs. Nurture', or the idea that people's character are decided by either genetic inheritance or their surroundings. In Cry, the Beloved Country, two brothers, John and Stephen Kumalo, are shown to have distinctly different values, although they are of the same family. Alan Paton, through his juxtaposition of John Kumalo and Stephen Kumalo, provides a correlation between a person's environment and a person's character.

John Kumalo, a shopkeeper and politician, shares few characteristics in common with his brother Stephen Kumalo. John Kumalo is an inhabitant of Johannesburg and is a man accustomed to city-life. Here in Johannesburg, the city develops in John a value for money and political power. John tells Stephen that, 'Down in Ndotsheni I am nobody, .... Here in Johannesburg I am a man of some importance, of some influence. I have my own business, and when it is good, I can make ten, twelve, pounds a week'(35), showing his concern for money and political influence over his own homeland.

Msimangu describes John as having 'not enough courage, for he would surely be sent to prison'(39), showing his view that while John may speak for a cause, he will not go as far as to be put in jail for it. Later, the narrator of the story says:

There are some men who long for martyrdom, there are those who know that to go to prison would bring greatness to them, these are those who would go to prison not caring if it brought greatness to them or not. But John Kumalo is not one of them. There is no applause in prison. (185-186)

This further shows John Kumalo as a selfish man, acting for his own good rather than the good of the people which he claims to...