While growing up at home, Patons parents instilled strict Christian teachings and his father disciplined him with beatings. As a result of the beatings that Patons father inflicted upon him, he was left with a traumatic experience which later shaped his views on corporal punishment. At the same time, Paton obtained a passion for reading from his father. Undoubtedly, this interest in literature influenced him to write his own literature (Witherbee).
Paton was forty-four years old when he wrote his classic novel, CTBC. He began writing CTBC during September of 1946 in Norway and completed the novel that same year in California on Christmas Eve. After much success of the novel, Paton decided to resign from Diepkloof Reformatory to devote his life to literature (GradeSaver).
In his novel, he tries to expose the disparities of South Africa by using tragedy as a mode to illustrate the consequences of whites disintegrating the tribal structure of the natives. Paton exposes how the whites change the lives of the natives by writing, . . . how the tribe was broken, and the house broken, and the man broken; how when they went away, many never came back, many never wrote any more (52). Paton goes on to support this statement by writing:
The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that they are not mended again. The white man has broken the tribe. And it is my belief . . . that it cannot be mended again. But the house that is broken, and the man that falls apart when the house is broken, these are the tragic things. That is why children break the law, and old white people are robbed and beaten. (56)
In the preface of his novel he mentions Professor Hoernle who was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand, and a great and courageous fighter for justice, the prince of Kafferboetics. In Afrikaans this was a derogatory term meaning something along the lines of ''nigger-lovers.'' Paton used this term, not as a negative term, but as a positive term to describe Hoernles efforts to help black South Africans. At the age of seventy-seven, he was in fact the prince of Kafferboetics. He fought for thirty years to help make South Africa a better place. No one alive has done more to shed light upon the moral, mental, and economical struggles between blacks and whites in South Africa to the world outside (New York Times).
CTBC explores the theme of the novel from two points of view. The first point of view is the old, simple, and humble black priest Steven Kumalo who travels to Johannesburg by train with his familys life savings in search of his son, who has become a juvenile delinquent, and his sister Gertrude, whom he believes is sick. His journey to Johannesburg is fraught with anguish, when he meets with his son, who is on trial for murdering a white man. Ironically, the discovery of the murder of this white man, Arthur Jarvis, was renowned for his interest in social problems, and his efforts for the welfare of non-whites of the community (blacks, Coloreds, and Asians). The next part of the book is devoted to the father of the murdered man, James Jarvis, who tries to comprehend his son's ideas as he reads through his papers. In the final section, Kumalo and Jarvis reach an understanding, and through this Paton advocates a solution to the South African situation based on a combination of helping the oppressed and giving voice to their condition.
CTBC depicts the social conditions in contemporary South Africa with great power. Paton illustrates this by explaining the tragedies of the characters. The young black man that robs Kumalo of his bus money; Gertrude, who cannot seem to support herself or her child; Absalom, who has fallen into the criminal world of Johannesburg. The novel sheds light on the criminal tendencies that are forced upon the natives by the dangerous working conditions and ridiculously low wages. Shortly after the publication of the novel in 1948, the apartheid movement came into effect. Therefore, although the novel does not discuss South Africa during the apartheid era, CTBC does a good job of explaining the events concerning apartheid-era South Africa and touching upon the liberal minded readers with plenty of examples of the disparities of blacks and whites.
Even before the apartheid years, as Paton makes clear in his novel, discrimination against blacks in South Africa was significant. The book somewhat describes the customs that would be made law in 1948. Blacks were forbidden from holding political office, had no viable unions, and certain positions were closed to them. The 1913 Native Lands Act prevented blacks outside of the Cape Province from buying land not part of certain reserves. with the election of the National Party and Daniel Malan as Prime Minister, apartheid was officially institutionalized in 1948. The National Party brought apartheid into law with certain legislation, such as the Group Areas Act, which specified that separate areas be reserved for the four main racial groups (whites, blacks, Coloreds, and Asians) (GradeSaver).
Paton argued for a mutual respect among people that he believed could surpass racial or generational boundaries.
As a liberal white South African, Paton was investigated by the National Party leaders during the late 1950s. The government began taking legal action to stop any contribution to Paton's Liberal Party. A law was passed in 1968 that made interracial political parties illegal, which led to the disbandment of The Liberal Party. The difficult position as the leader of the Liberal Party not only colors his writing, it also provides the subject matter: apartheid and its moral, psychological, and economic consequences (Witherbee).