My son and I didn’t see eye to eye on the native question, John. In fact, he and I got quite heated about it on more than one occasion. But I’d like to see what he wrote.
Here, James talks to Arthur’s brother-in-law, John. John explained that Arthur wrote about bringing equality to South Africa. James admits that he and his son, Arthur, did not agree on the matter, but the fact that he wants to read Arthur’s writings shows that he feels more open-minded than other white people at this time.
Jarvis sat, deeply moved. Whether because this was his son, whether because this was almost the last act of his son, he could not say. Whether because there was some quality in the words that too he could not say, for he had given little time in his life to the savouring and judging of words.
The narrator explains that after James reads an excerpt of Arthur’s writing, he feels amazed that his son was capable of writing about such powerful ideas. Like Kumalo, James realizes he barely knew his son, which he finds both concerning and impressive. Readers may also get the idea that James has not given much thought to the inequality in South Africa, as the ideas Arthur has expressed seem new to him.
Shocked and hurt, Jarvis put down the papers. For a moment he felt something almost like anger, but he wiped his eyes with his fingers and shook it from him.
Here, the narrator reveals James’s reaction to Arthur’s essay. In the essay, James writes that while he had a blessed childhood, his parents did not teach him about the inequality in South Africa because they did not care about the situation. James feels upset by Arthur’s statement, but rather than getting angry, he seems to feel shame that he remained so ignorant of the subject before reading his son’s writing.
You should know that my wife was suffering before we went to Johannesburg.
James includes this line at the end of a letter he sends to Kumalo. Kumalo felt concerned that James’s wife took ill due to grief after Arthur’s death, and Kumalo worries that James would want nothing to do with him. However, James quells Kumalo’s fear by explaining that she was ill before Arthur’s death, showing that James has more empathy for black people by the end of the novel.
Because Jarvis made no answer he sought for words to explain it, but before he had spoken a word, the other had already spoken. I understand you, he said, I understand completely.
On the day his son is to be executed, Kumalo goes to a mountain to be alone with his thoughts. He runs into James on the way and tells him where he is going even though he feels his intentions may sound foolish. However, James reassures Kumalo that he does indeed understand. As both men have been on a similar journey, James understands the loss of a son very well.