Alan Paton – Agape Love as an Answer to Apartheid

Presented by Denise Doz to the Calgary Women’s Literary Club

October 20, 2020

Alan Stewart Paton (11 January, 1903-12th April, 1988) lived and wrote at a time when the brutal policy of Apartheid was being implemented and became law.  The minority white population in the country created an oppressive regime noted for the cruelty and suffering experienced by the majority black population. The dominant culture in the country was one of racism, exploitation, and intimidation, all familiar events in the daily lives of the tribal people.

Several forces combined to stir Paton to use his pen as a voice of protest against these policies.  His narrative was embedded in his love of nature and the special devotion he held for his land of birth.  As a devout Anglican Christian, he threaded examples of how the transformative practice of brotherly love, agape, yielded acts of compassion that would become the fertile ground needed to improve understanding among people.  He believed that this would grow into the collective mindset necessary to remove the moral blindness that empowered Apartheid in a country where the leaders claimed to be Christian.  Agape, not violence was the answer.

In his seminal novel, Cry the Beloved Country, in Too Late the Phalarope, as well as in numerous articles, it is apparent that Paton was gifted with a way of seeing that flows into his writing.  His words come from his soul, from his mind, and from his heart.  This combination forms a powerful holistic vision of society, a special way of seeing people, issues, society and culture through a sensitive and caring lens.  He draws from his own journey to paint “wordscapes” rich in lyrical prose, characters both simple and complex, plots that go from the deepest well of the heart to the highest mountain of the spirit.  His vault of literary tools overflows with techniques used to wrench the heart, grow the mind and feed the soul.  He uses conflict, both inner and external, he uses struggle, both against a physical urge or a system of racist exploitation, and he uses family, both tribal and universal.  True to his purpose, he uses examples of agape as a vibrant thread through much of his writing.

Sources and further reading:

Cry the Beloved Country, Alan Paton, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1987 Edition.

Too Late the Phalarope, Alan Paton, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1953

Literary Companion to World Literature, Readings on Cry, the Beloved Country, (Chronology) Greenhaven Press, Inc., San Diego, CA. 2001

Exploring the Relationship Between Paton’s Ideology and His Context Abstract. Lirola, Maria Martinez  (University of Alicante, Spain) UDK: 821.111 (680).09 Paton, A. S. Pregledni rad Primljen: 5. 4. 2007. Orihvacen: 5. 7. 2007

Journal “Reality” (see Lirola)

Sparks, Allister”. (1990:214) (Lirola)

“Contact” (Journal) Paton, 1958: 9

Christianity and Apartheid:  An Introductory Bibliography. Hexham, Irving Copyright 1980

Whither South Africa?   H.E .Keet Stellenbosch University Publishers, 1956


The Bible and the justification of apartheid in Reformed circles in the 1940s in South Africa:  some historical, hermeneutical and theological remarks.  Vosloo, Robert R.  Stellenbosch Theological Journal 2015, Vol 1, No 2, 195-215.  On-line version ISSN 2413-9467

Apartheid Legislation in South Africa (

Liberal Party of South Africa (LPSAS) Collection in the Archives . Alan Stewart Paton.

Negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa. Wikipedia (

Apartheid. (

Culture.  Apartheid ended 29 years ago.  How has South Africa changed?  National Geographic.  Jones, Rachel, April 26, 2019 (

World Politics Explainer:  the end of Apartheid.

Africanhistory.about.Apartheid Legislation in South Africa

Britannica Online Encyclopedia-Apartheid