In Alan Paton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country two characters, Absalom’s girl and Gertrude, show the how society in Johannesburg is as a whole. Absalom’s girl symbolizes how girls her age are mothers and have even become divorced several times before. On the other hand Gertrude, Kumalo’s sister, illustrates the qualities of a young woman who becomes corrupt from Johannesburg’s filthy system of stealing, lying, and prostitution. Both of them show the ways of Johannesburg as a whole.
When Gertrude is first found, by Kumalo, she is seen as a ragged and dirty person making her living as a prostitute. When Kumalo sees this he thinks of how she could have a much better living if she came back with him. This is, in essence, the same thing that Kumalo and the blacks are trying to do to Johannesburg. These people are trying to fix the corruption that has taken place in the city.
Gertrude, like many others who have come to Johannseburg, or who were even born there, were brought to a world where corruption is the key to living. This is the only way to make a decent life and so they stoop to the lowest levels possible, cheating and prostitution. And just like the rest Gertrude can’t be saved from what has become. Even though Kumalo tries to save her and the city of Johannesburg from what it has become it is known that once they have become what they have it’s impossible to change them back.
Absalom’s girl, on the other hand, symbolizes how the society gets into many difficulties at a very young age. This girl has already had several husbands and has a child. Like the rest of the population of Johannesburg she has been confronted by something she is not ready to face. Because of the way of life in this city her choices, along with many others, is half chance. Even though it seems to be the right thing it isn’t the same outside of the city.
Symbolism is also shown through Absalom’s girl to Absalom. Many people, in Johannesburg, have spouses who make a living by doing many bad things including stealing. Also, a great number have lost someone because of what they do, either by death or by getting arrested and prosecuted. Either way the people are taking a risk and it is shown by what happens to Absalom.
In a land filled with hatred the way of life of Absalom’s girl, along with Gertrude, was considered normal to most. These ideas are imprinted into their heads now and can’t be changed, even by Stephen. Change can’t be in grasp if the people involved don’t know any way of making a better life than through what they are doing. If all these people know is stealing and prostitution than when you give them new ideas it does not interest them.
Even though Gertrude and Absalom’s girl accepted the invitation to change they still didn’t change. Changing is even beyond their own power because unfortunately this new idea of life has been engraved in their heads. Gertrude and Absalom’s girl, symbolized, represent everyone in Johannesburg black or white.