Cry the Beloved Country
Two locations the story takes place in are:
1) Ndotsheni – a beautiful, rural, Zulu Village in Africa where tribal customs are preserved.
2) Johannesburg - a city in South Africa. The City of Johannesburg has many slums where people are living in very poor conditions.
The novel takes place in 1946 in South Africa just before the 1948 elections and the onset of apartheid which is the separation of races.
During the apartheid era, both black and white South Africans fought against legalized racism. In many ways, the South African fight against apartheid was similar to the American civil rights movement.
Stephen Kumolo: An Anglican rector in the Zulu village of Ndotsheni who decides to go to Johannesburg to find his sister, Gertrude and find his son, Absalom.
Gertrude Kumalo: Stephen Kumalo’s sister who has become a prostitute in Johannesburg.
Absalom Kumalo: Stephen Kumalo’s son who is convicted and sentenced to hang for killing Arthur Jarvis.
Arthur Jarvis: A white man who was killed by Absalom. He was a liberal activist.
James Jarvis: Arthur Jarvis’ father. He is a wealthy landowner.
Msimangu: Head of the Mission House and who helps Stephen Kumalo locate his son and sister.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF FILM:
Stephen Kumalo, a rector in the Zulu village of Ndotsheni, decides to go to Johannesburg to find his son, Absalom, and his sister, Gertrude. Both went to Johannesburg years earlier. Gertrude went to find her husband and Absalom went to find his aunt. Neither have written home for sometime, so Kumalo decides to try to trace them.
When Kumalo arrives in Johannesburg, he is shocked by the poverty of the black section. He is welcomed at the Mission House by Msimangu. Msimangu leads Kumalo on the search for his sister, Gertrude, whom they easily locate. She agrees to return to Ndotsheni. The search for Kumalo’s son, Absalom, continues throughout Johannesburg.
One evening Kumalo reads in the newspaper that Arthur Jarvis, a liberal activist, has been murdered in his home during a burglary attempt. Shortly after the murder, the police begin their search for Absalom, whom they suspect of the murder. Kumalo and his son finally reunite in jail. Father Vincent, the English Priest at the Mission House, arranges for a defense attorney for Absalom. Absalom is convicted and sentenced to hang.
Kumalo returns to Ndotsheni with Absalom’s pregnant wife. Rather than return to Ndotsheni, Gertrude abandons her son and disappears. Kumalo takes the son to Ndotsheni with him.
After his return to Ndotsheni, Stephen Kumalo’s prayers for the prosperity of his village are answered. James Jarvis, the father of the murdered man, has resolved out of respect for the memory of his son, to assist the village people. Mr. Jarvis has become aware of the needs of the natives by studying his son’s writings. He decides to provide milk for the children, support for an irrigation project, and education for the farmers.
Mr. Kumalo, father of Absalom who killed Mr. Jarvis’ son Arthur, and Mr. Jarvis slowly come to an understanding of each other through their efforts to help the people of Ndotsheni.
About the author:
Alan Paton is the author of Cry the Beloved Country. One of Paton’s major purposes in writing the novel was to illustrate what happened to the African tribal system as a result of interferences from the whites.
- Paton believed that the intrusion of the whites brought about the collapse of African tribal society.
- Alan Paton died in 1988 and unfortunately, did not live to see a democratic South Africa.
- Alan Paton died just a few short years before his dream for a democratic South Africa came true.