Character Analysis James Jarvis


Before the death of his son, James Jarvis had been a person who found contentment in tending his estate and maintaining a distinct separation from the world around him. He is basically a good man who instilled some solid virtues in his son, but who never bothered to face the controversial issues of the time.

He had always believed in traditional ideas, but during the course of the novel and as a result of his son's death, he moves closer to his son's position. Or at least, he tries to come to some understanding of the racial problem of South Africa by trying to understand his son. In one sense, he becomes almost like his son in that he donates money and time and then arranges things so that the natives will learn to help themselves.

Jarvis also gains a feeling for Kumalo's suffering even before he knows Kumalo. He sympathizes with Kumalo's position and attempts to alleviate the old man's suffering in many small ways.

After contemplating his son's writings and his son's thinking, Jarvis slowly comes to a realization that the cause of the recent racial strife must lie partly with the whites who have ignored the situation for so many years. He first begins to do simple tasks such as sending milk to the young children; later he builds the dam. Ultimately, Jarvis finds a trained expert in agriculture who can show the people how to help themselves. During the course of the novel, he represents the sensitive and intelligent man who becomes aware, through a private tragedy, of the tragedy of an entire race, and makes some small effort to correct this injustice.

Back to Top