Corruption is one of the most prevailing themes in Cry The Beloved Country, as well as in today?s world. In this story the author pictures many different characters in order to represent this wide spread illness of society, John Kumalo, Gertrude, Abasalom, just to name a few. Johannesburg itself is the summary of all that is wrong with cities of today. There is corruption and poverty. Crime runs rampant, and law-abiding citizens are forced to survive as they can.
One of the most typical products of corruption in Cry The Beloved Country is John Kumalo. He has a woman living with him that he hasn?t married; he has no problems with hiring a lawyer that will lie, effectively condemning his nephew to death. His one good trait is that he uses his political power to help further the cause of the African natives, and even this is tarnished by the fact that he only wants to further his own ambitions. He doesn?t have the heart necessary for a revolutionary leader and that will be his downfall. If he was willing to go to prison and make sacrifices for what he believed in or wanted he would have much more power than he has now.
Abasalom is a good example of corruption that doesn?t come from the heart. Unlike John, Abasalom does not want to be corrupt, and he is not proud of what he has done. When he killed Arthur he was horrified, and when the police found him he didn?t deny what he had done, but confessed. Abasalom was corrupted by Johannesburg and by his "friends", and was a victim of circumstance.
Allan Paton presents Johannesburg as a nest of corruption in the book. As a matter of fact all the other corruption mentioned in the story is stemming from Johannesburg: John, Gertrude, Abasalom, crime, prostitution, racism, segregation. Johannesburg isn?t only corrupt in itself; it corrupts all most all that it touches. This city is very much a downscaled version of anyone of numerous major cities in the world today. It is a sad day when a man of the cloth cannot go unmolested through the streets. The city is overcrowded and everyone is so poor that they must stoop to rob priests just to feed themselves.
A good example of what this city does to a person is Gertrude, the most pathetic character in the book. She has been chewed up and spit out by a city that has no room for good black people. She went off in search of her husband and ended up by herself with "many husband?s" as Msimangu said. Gertrude must also sell illegal liquor and has gone to prison. Her child runs around ragged and dirty in the streets, with no education and no supervision or name. Gertrude is like Abasalom in that she is not corrupt at heart, but it was Johannesburg that turned her. At the end of the book she chooses to remain in Johannesburg instead of going to her home, with her child. She did this because she wanted her child to have a good life, but knew that she couldn?t go back when she was that corrupted.
This book very graphically describes all the filth of corruption; it is everywhere, from the small village to the large town. This reflects our society today. In our congressional offices, in our schools, in our courts and everywhere else there is corruption. We must not let this go on; we must seek and white out this blot on the beauty of our civilization. In Cry the beginnings of this are shown. A white man is helping a black community; in turn these people will not turn to crime in order to survive.