Cry, The Beloved Country Study guide

Stephen Kumalo


Kumalo is an elderly Zulu priest who has spent all of his life in the village of Ndotsheni. He is a quiet, humble, & gentle man with a strong moral sense & an abiding faith in God. He is not perfect; occasionally he gives in to the temptation to hurt others with harsh words or lies. The dignity & grace with which he accepts his suffering, along with his determination to help his people in spite of his limitations, make him the moral center of the novel.
James Jarvis


a white landowner whose farm overlooks Ndotsheni. When he first appears in the novel, Jarvis is a relatively conservative farmer and a man of few words

the tragic news that his only son, Arthur, has been murdered leads him to Johannesburg, where he begins to rethink his opinions and his relationship to the villagers that live below his farm.

Theophilus Msimangu
Stephen Kumalo’s host & guide in Johannesburg. A tall, young minister at the Mission House in Sophiatown, Msimangu has an acute understanding of the problems that face South Africa. He helps Kumalo understand the people and places that they encounter, & is unfailingly sympathetic to Kumalo, making Kumalo’s quest his top priority. He sometimes speaks unkindly, but he quickly repents. His eventual decision to enter a monastery is a final testament to the depth of his faith and generosity.
Absalom Kumalo
Stephen Kumalo’s son. After fleeing home for Johannesburg, Absalom quickly goes astray, but even after he commits murder, he is able to reclaim his fundamental decency. His decision to move to Johannesburg is part of a larger trend of young black people fleeing their villages for the cities. Absalom’s story is a cautionary tale of the dangers of this movement. Seeming to lack a reliable moral compass, he is influenced by bad companions and begins a criminal career.
John Kumalo
Stephen Kumalo’s brother. Formerly a humble carpenter & a practicing Christian, John Kumalo becomes a successful businessman & one of the three most powerful black politicians in Johannesburg. He has a beautiful & powerful voice, which he uses to speak out for the rights of black South Africans, but his fear of punishment prevents him from pushing for actual radical change, and he is considered by many to be without courage.
Arthur Jarvis
Arthur Jarvis’s name first appears in the novel after he has been murdered, but he is a powerful presence whose legacy hovers over the whole novel. An engineer and fierce advocate for justice for black South Africans, he is shot dead in his home by Absalom Kumalo.
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Mrs. Kumalo
Stephen Kumalo’s strong-minded, supportive, and loving wife. Mrs. Kumalo & her husband make household decisions as equals, & she bears hardship gracefully. When Kumalo is inclined to brood, she rouses him to action, & it is she who supplies the courage needed to read the bad news that the mail brings from Johannesburg.
Gertrude Kumalo
Stephen Kumalo’s sister & the original reason for his trip to Johannesburg. Gertrude, twenty-five years younger than Kumalo & living in Johannesburg, is easily influenced. When Kumalo reminds her of her Christian duties and obligations, she attempts to return to them, but she lacks real determination.
Gertrude’s son
Kumalo’s nephew. He brings comfort to Kumalo during his troubles. He returns with Kumalo to Ndotsheni, where Absalom’s wife raises him.
Mrs. Lithebe
The woman with whom Kumalo stays in Johannesburg. Mrs. Lithebe is an Msutu woman who lives in Sophiatown & takes in boarders, especially priests. She is a good & generous Christian who believes that helping others is simply her duty.
The young man
A young white man who works at the reformatory & attempts to reform Absalom. Although he does, on one occasion, chastise Kumalo, he does so because he cares much for his pupils, & the thought of Absalom’s predicament pains him.
Father Vincent
An Anglican priest from England who stays at the Sophiatown Mission & offers to help Kumalo with his troubles. Father Vincent counsels Kumalo when he is brokenhearted over his son & presides over the wedding between Absalom & Absalom’s girlfriend. He is warm & understanding, & he possesses deep faith
Absalom’s girlfriend
kindhearted & quiet sixteen-year-old girl whom Absalom has impregnated. She ran away from her dysfunctional family but still seeks a family structure & bonds. She is sexually experienced but essentially innocent, obedient, & grateful for adult protection.
Margaret Jarvis
James Jarvis’s wife. Margaret takes the death of her son very hard. She is a physically fragile & loving woman who commiserates with & supports her husband through their grief. She also shares in his plans to help Ndotsheni.
John Harrison
The brother of Mary Jarvis, Arthur Jarvis’s wife. John is young & quick-witted, & shares Arthur’s opinions about the rights of the black population in South Africa. He provides companionship to James Jarvis in Johannesburg
Mr. Harrison
Mary Jarvis’s father. Mr. Harrison has conservative political views & blames black South Africans for the country’s problems. Though he disagrees with Arthur, he admires Arthur’s courage.
Arthur’s son
Although only a child, Arthur’s son is very much like his father. He is curious, intelligent, & generous. He treats black people with unusual courtesy & pleases Kumalo by visiting him & practicing Zulu.
Napoleon Letsitsi
The agricultural expert hired by James Jarvis to teach better farming techniques to the people of Ndotsheni. A well-educated middle-class black man, Letsitsi earns a good salary & is eager to help build his country. Although grateful for the help of good white men, he nonetheless looks forward to an Africa in which black people will not rely on whites for their basic needs.
Matthew Kumalo
John Kumalo’s son. We learn little about Matthew, but he is important to the plot of the novel, as he is a good friend & eventual accomplice of Absalom’s. Eventually, however, Matthew denies having been present at the robbery, turning his back on his cousin and friend.
Johannes Pafuri
The third young man present at the attempted robbery of Arthur Jarvis’s house. According to Absalom’s testimony, Pafuri is the ringleader of the group, deciding the time of the robbery & having his weapon “blessed” to give them good luck.
Mr. Carmichael
An acquaintance of Father Vincent’s who becomes Absalom’s lawyer. Mr. Carmichael is a tall and serious man who carries himself with an almost royal bearing. He takes Absalom’s case pro deo (“for God”).
The Judge
The judge who presides over Absalom’s case seems to be a fair-minded man, but he is constrained by unjust laws & applies them strictly.
The second in a trio of powerful black politicians in Johannesburg. Dubula provides the heart to complement John Kumalo’s voice. The bus boycott & the construction of Shanty Town are his handiwork.
The third colleague of Dubula and John Kumalo. While not a great orator, Tomlinson is considered the smartest of the three.
Mary Jarvis
Arthur Jarvis’s wife. Mary takes her husband’s murder hard, but she remains strong for her children. She shares her husband’s commitment to justice.
Chapter 1

In the hilly South African province of Natal, a lovely road winds its way up from the village of Ixopo to Carisbrooke, a journey of seven miles. This misty vantage point looks out over one of the fairest valleys of Africa, where the native birds sing and the grass is dense and green. The lush grass of the hills clings to the rain and mist, soaking up the moisture, which in turn feeds every stream. Although cattle graze here, their feeding has not destroyed the land, and the few fires that burn have not harmed the soil.

As the hills roll down to the valley below, however, they become red and bare. The grass there has been destroyed by cattle and fire, and the streams have all run dry. When storms come, the red dirt runs like blood, and the crops are withered and puny. These valleys are the homes of the elderly, who scrape at the dirt for sustenance. Some mothers live here with their children, but all the able-bodied young people have long since moved away.
Chapter 2

The Reverend Stephen Kumalo, a native Zulu, sits in his house writing when a young girl appears with a letter. It is from Johannesburg, but so many members of his family have been in the city for so long without word that it could be from any of them, & he cannot recognize the handwriting. Among others, Kumalo’s brother, John, lives in Johannesburg, as does their sister Gertrude, who is 25 years younger than Kumalo & Kumalo’s son, Absalom, who went to the city in search of Gertrude & has never returned.

Kumalo’s wife gets the courage to open the letter & reads it aloud in faltering English. It is from a minister in Johannesburg named Theophilus Msimangu, who reports that Gertrude is ill & asks that Kumalo come to the Sophiatown section of Johannesburg.

Kumalo’s wife asks what Kumalo will do, & he reluctantly tells her to bring him the money they saved for Absalom’s education at St. Chad’s, the local school. Kumalo’s resolve falters when he holds the money in his hand, but his wife comments that there is no longer any point in saving it—Absalom has gone to Johannesburg, & those who go there do not return. Kumalo reacts angrily to his wife’s idea that their son will never come back, & although she protests, saying that Kumalo is hurting himself, he continues to deny her claim angrily. When he realizes that his words are wounding his wife, he calms down. They pool the St. Chad’s money with the rest of their savings & give up the money they intended to spend on clothes & a new stove. Kumalo apologizes to his wife for his unkindness & heads off to his church to pray for guidance & forgiveness.

Chapter 3

Kumalo waits for the Johannesburg train at Carisbrooke. Generally, this journey is shrouded in mist, which some find to be an ominous sign & others find a mysterious prelude to adventure. Kumalo pays little attention to his surroundings. He is anxious about his sister’s health, the potential costs of treating her illness & the chaos of Johannesburg, where there are many buses & one can be killed just by crossing the street, as happened to a twelve-year-old boy who was an acquaintance of Kumalo’s. His gravest concern is his son.

The train arrives, & Kumalo bids farewell to the companion who has helped him bring his bags to the station. As Kumalo boards the train, his companion passes on a request from a man named Sibeko, whose daughter accompanied a white family to Johannesburg & has not written since. Kumalo says he will do what he can. He boards one of the train’s designated non-European carriages, where he searches in vain for a fellow passenger of the same social class as himself.
He then goes to the window to say farewell to his friend & asks why Sibeko couldn’t make his request himself. His companion explains that Sibeko does not belong to Kumalo’s church, but Kumalo proclaims that they are all of the same people & should not hesitate to go to one another in times of trouble. He states grandiosely that he will check on Sibeko’s daughter, although he will be busy, as he always is when he is in Johannesburg. Since Kumalo has never been to Johannesburg before, this statement is a lie, but it has the desired effect of impressing Kumalo’s fellow passengers.
Once the train leaves the station, Kumalo’s fears return. He worries about the city, about the fate of his family members, particularly his son, and about his intuition that he “lives in a world not made for him.” As the train rattles along toward Johannesburg, Kumalo takes refuge in his Bible, the only thing that brings him comfort in these troubled times.
Chapter 4

The train to Johannesburg travels a full day & night, climbing through many hills & villages. The regions Kumalo passes through are unfamiliar to him, with foreign landscapes & signs written in Afrikaans, which he does not speak. The great mines of South Africa come into view, & Kumalo’s fellow travelers, many of whom are miners, explain how the mines are painstakingly excavated. They point out the great pulley that hoists the broken rocks, & Kumalo is awestruck by the scale of it all. Overwhelmed by the modern surroundings, he keeps mistaking the passing landscape for Johannesburg, but his fellow passengers laugh & tell him of buildings in Johannesburg so tall they can barely describe them.

The train arrives in Johannesburg, where Kumalo moves gingerly through the crowds that swarm throughout the station. Outside the station, the rush of traffic terrifies Kumalo & he stands petrified on the sidewalk, unable to decipher the traffic lights. Speaking in a language Kumalo does not understand, a young man appears & offers to help Kumalo find his way to Sophiatown.

The young man leads Kumalo to the bus station where he tells Kumalo to wait in line for the buses while he buys him a ticket. Eager to show his trust, Kumalo gives the young man a pound from his precious savings. He suspects that something is wrong as soon as the young man turns the corner. An elderly man takes pity on the helpless Kumalo & informs him that his money has been stolen. When it turns out that they are both headed for Sophiatown, the elderly man invites Kumalo to travel with him. He guides Kumalo safely to Msimangu’s Mission House, where the young Reverend Msimangu opens the door & introduces Kumalo’s companion as Mr. Mafolo. Mr. Mafolo leaves as Kumalo, safe at last, enjoys a cigarette and reflects on the days to come.

Chapter 5

Msimangu informs Kumalo that he has found a room for him with Mrs. Lithebe, a local churchgoer. Kumalo uses a modern toilet for the first time—in his village, he had heard of these devices, but he had never used one. The two men dine with the other priests, a group that includes both blacks and whites, at the mission. Kumalo speaks sadly and lovingly about his village, and about how both Ixopo and its neighboring villages are falling into ruin. One white rosy-cheeked priest wishes to hear more, but he excuses himself to attend to other affairs. The other priests, in turn, tell Kumalo that all is not well in Johannesburg—white people have become afraid because of a rise in crime. They show him a newspaper headline describing an attack on an elderly white couple. Whites aren’t the only victims–they tell him how an African girl was robbed & almost raped

After dinner, Msimangu asks Kumalo about Gertrude. Kumalo replies that his sister came to Johannesburg with her child to find her husband. Msimangu regretfully informs him that she now has many husbands—she sells cheap liquor & prostitutes herself in the worst area of Johannesburg. There have been crimes committed at her home, & she has been in prison. Msimangu also tells a distraught Kumalo that Gertrude’s son lives with her, but that her home is no place for a child. Msimangu has heard nothing about Absalom but promises to ask about him. As the sorrowful Kumalo goes to pray, he asks about his brother, and Msimangu informs him that John Kumalo is now a great politician but has little use for the church.
Msimangu explains that he does not hate the white man, in part because a white man “brought [his] father out of darkness” by converting him to Christianity. He confides to Kumalo that he believes that white people have broken the tribal structure without leaving anything in its place.
Msimangu explains that some white men are trying to rebuild the country for all people, but that they are not enough, and are held prisoner by the same fear that rules the rest of the country. He says that Father Vincent, the rosy-cheeked priest at dinner, is the best person to ask about such things. Kumalo retires to his lodgings and marvels that only 48 hours ago he had been with his wife.
Chapter 6

Msimangu accompanies Kumalo to the neighboring slums of Claremont, where Gertrude lives. It is a pity, Msimangu says, that the neighborhoods are not farther apart—the trams are filled with rival gangs of hooligans, and there is always trouble. Despite their pretty names, the streets of Claremont are filthy, and Msimangu points out a woman who is a prominent liquor dealer and explains that many of the children in the streets are not at school because there is no room for them in the classes. Msimangu waits up the street while Kumalo listens to the strange, unfriendly laughter coming from behind his sister’s door. Gertrude keeps Kumalo waiting while her unseen companions hastily rearrange and prepare the room.

Gertrude is sullen and fearful at first, and she tells Kumalo that she has not yet found her husband. Kumalo reproaches her for not writing and demands to see her child. When it becomes clear that she does not know where the child is, he tells Gertrude that she has shamed them, and announces that he has come to take her back. She falls on the ground in hysterics, saying that she wants to leave Johannesburg but is not a good enough person to return home. Softened by her remorse, Kumalo forgives her, and they pray together.
Although Gertrude and Kumalo are now reconciled, she is unable to give him news of his son, although she says that their nephew—John’s son—has spent time with Absalom and that he will know. A neighborhood woman brings in Gertrude’s son, and Kumalo urges his sister to collect her things while he secures her a room at Mrs. Lithebe’s.
Kumalo returns with a borrowed truck to collect Gertrude, and, in the evening, greatly encouraged by the success of this first mission, he feels as if the tribe is being rebuilt and the soul of his home restored
Ch. 7

Kumalo sits in his lodgings, writing a letter to his wife and listening to Gertrude sing as she helps Mrs. Lithebe around the house while her son plays in the garden. Msimangu arrives and brings Kumalo to the shop of his brother, John. Although John does not recognize Kumalo at first, he seems pleasantly surprised to see him. Kumalo learns that John’s wife, Esther, has left him, and that John has since acquired a mistress.

John tries to explain why he stopped writing home and then asks Kumalo if he may speak in English. In a strange voice, he relates that he has been seized by “an experience” in Johannesburg that has made him see things differently. In the village, John says, he was a nobody and had to obey the chief, whom he calls ignorant and a tool of the white man. In Johannesburg, he says, he is free from the chief, although he adds that the church serves a similar function in keeping black South Africans down. Things are changing in Johannesburg, John proclaims, and his voice deepens with emotion as he decries the wealth and power of the mine’s owners and the poverty of the miners. Although the bishop condemns this economic discrepancy, he lives in a fancy house, which embitters John toward the church.
Msimangu questions John’s fidelity to his former wife. Before John can respond, Kumalo intervenes and John’s mistress silently serves tea. Kumalo confesses that listening to John is painful for him, both because of John’s manner of speaking and because much of what he says is true. He tells John he has found Gertrude and asks about Absalom. John says he does not know where either Absalom or his own son are, then remembers that they were working in a textile factory in Alexandra. Msimangu and Kumalo take their leave.
As they head to the textile factory, Msimangu explains to Kumalo that much of what John said is true, and that John is one of the three most important black men in Johannesburg. Msimangu also suggests, however, that if John were as courageous as he maintains, he would be in prison, and Msimangu observes that power can corrupt even the most dedicated politician.
At the textile factory, the white men who manage the plant are helpful, stating that Absalom has not worked there for twelve months. Kumalo and Msimangu meet a friend of Absalom’s who says that Absalom used to live with a Mrs. Ndlela in Sophiatown.
The two priests find Mrs. Ndlela, who tells them that Absalom has moved to Alexandra. After Kumalo steps outside, Msimangu asks Mrs. Ndlela why she seems so sorry for Kumalo, and she reveals that both she and her husband felt that Absalom kept bad company.
Ch. 8

Msimangu and Kumalo catch a bus to Alexandra from Johannesburg. As they board the bus, however, they are stopped by Dubula, another of the three most important black leaders in Johannesburg. Dubula tells them that blacks are boycotting the buses because the fares have been raised and persuades them to walk the eleven miles to Alexandra. As they walk, they accept a ride from a white driver, who goes miles out of his way to help them.

Kumalo and Msimangu walk the remaining distance as Msimangu explains that in Alexandra, blacks are allowed to own property, but that the town is so crime-ridden that its white neighbors have petitioned to have it destroyed. He tells Kumalo stories of whites being attacked and killed, and ends with the moving story of a black couple’s rescue of a white woman who had been raped and abandoned by a white man. He also says, however, that Alexandra is more good than bad.
Kumalo and Msimangu reach Absalom’s new house, but its owner, Mrs. Mkize, is visibly afraid and will tell them only that Absalom moved a year ago. Kumalo knows that something is wrong, and Msimangu tells him to go on ahead and seek refreshment, then returns to question the woman again. She is too scared to say what she knows, but when Msimangu swears on a Bible to keep her secret safe, she reveals that Absalom and John’s son often came home very late at night with all kinds of money, food, watches, and clothes.
Mrs. Mkize tells him that both boys were friends with a local taxi driver named Hlabeni. Msimangu hires Hlabeni to drive him and Kumalo back to Johannesburg, then asks Hlabeni if he knows Absalom’s whereabouts. Hlabeni, who is scared, admits that the young men now live in a shantytown in the city of Orlando. They drive past crowds of black people resolutely walking instead of taking the bus, while a number of white drivers offer them rides. Msimangu is particularly impressed by the behavior of one white driver who has been pulled over by the police, and he slaps his chest and defiantly echoes the driver’s cry of “take me to court.”
Ch. 9

A chorus of anonymous voices describes Shanty Town. From all over the land, people pour into the city of Johannesburg. The waiting lists for houses are impossibly long, however, and there is little room in the houses in Alexandra, Sophiatown, and Orlando. Families with homes take in boarders, but the accommodations fill up, often with a dozen people crammed into two rooms.

Privacy is scarce, and tempers flare. Some husbands and wives are seduced by their lodgers; others throw tenants out into the street in fits of protective jealousy. A well-placed bribe may secure the right person a home, but there are no guarantees. The money to build housing is tied up because of war in Europe and North Africa.
Dubula’s commands ripple through the masses of the homeless. Building supplies are stolen from the plantations, train stations, and mines. Near Orlando’s railroad tracks, an entire city goes up overnight, made of poles, sacks, and the long grasses of the South African plains. The only cost is a shilling a week to Dubula’s committee. It is crowded and wet in Shanty Town. In the middle of the night, a child burns with fever and dies before a doctor can reach her. Newspapermen come and take pictures, and the state springs into action. New homes are built for the Shanty Town masses, just as Dubula said they would be.
But a new tide of people rushes to set up makeshift homes, and this time the state reacts with anger. The police drive these people back to where they came from. A few remain, watching the new houses that the government is building and waiting for their turn to move in.
Ch. 10

While waiting to go to Shanty Town, Kumalo spends time with Gertrude and her son. He and Gertrude have little to say to each other, but he takes comfort in telling his small nephew about Natal, and Gertrude finds a friend in Mrs. Lithebe. In Shanty Town, Kumalo and Msimangu ask a nurse about Absalom’s whereabouts. The nurse sends them to Mrs. Hlatshwayo, with whom Absalom was staying.

She tells them that Absalom was sent to the reformatory. As they walk to the reformatory, Msimangu tries to comfort Kumalo, saying that he has heard good things about the reformatory. To Msimangu’s surprise, Kumalo asks him what he spoke about with Mrs. Mkize, Absalom’s landlady in Alexandra. Msimangu reveals that she told him that Absalom and John’s son often came home late with bundles of white people’s possessions.
At the reformatory, a young white man tells Msimangu and Kumalo that Absalom was a model student, but that he was discharged a month earlier because of his age, good behavior, and the frequent visits from his pregnant girlfriend. Despite Kumalo’s worry that the young man will be unsympathetic to a black man who speaks no Afrikaans, the young man is quite helpful. He promises to take Msimangu and Kumalo to Absalom’s new home in Pimville, where, the young man says, Absalom is saving money and preparing to marry his girlfriend.
The young man, Msimangu, and Kumalo go to Absalom’s house in Pimville, where Absalom’s girlfriend, still a child herself, tells them that Absalom left the house a few days earlier and has not yet returned. Kumalo asks her what she will do, but before she can respond, Msimangu speaks harshly to the girl and tells Kumalo that her problem is one that Kumalo cannot solve. When Kumalo protests that she carries his grandchild, Msimangu scoffs at the idea and wonders out loud how many other children Absalom may have. After informing them that Absalom has been absent from work for many days, the young man leaves them at the gates of Orlando, where Msimangu apologizes to Kumalo for his unkind words. Kumalo forgives him and asks Msimangu to take him back to the girl.
Ch. 11

Msimangu persuades Kumalo to take a few days’ rest while Msimangu goes to Ezenzeleni, a colony for the blind. Kumalo and Msimangu then enjoy a quiet evening at the Mission House with Father Vincent, who listens to Kumalo’s stories of Natal and tells them about his native England. The tranquil evening is shattered, however, when another priest enters with a newspaper whose front page announces the murder of Arthur Jarvis, a white engineer and crusader for the rights of black South Africans.

Jarvis, the paper reports, was at home with a cold when intruders knocked out his servant and shot him at close range. The paper states that there are no leads, but police hope the unconscious servant will be able to furnish some information upon awakening. The paper also states that Jarvis was in the midst of writing his treatise on “The Truth About Native Crime” when he was murdered. The article closes by saying that Jarvis leaves behind a widow and two children—a nine-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter.
Kumalo remembers seeing Arthur as a boy, small and bright, with his father—the Jarvis farm overlooks Ndotsheni. He is weighed down by a sudden, inexplicable fear. Msimangu tries to reassure him that the odds of any connection between Absalom and the murder are small, but Kumalo is inconsolable and too tired even to pray.
Ch. 12
A speaker notes that no one can enjoy the beauty of South Africa amid so much violence. He adds that throughout the nation, thousands of voices cry out what must be done. He argues that there should be more police, and another speaker argues that if black Africans had more rights, there would be less crime. Some advocate that more schools be built in the black districts, where fewer than half the children go to school, but others say that schooling blacks only produces criminals who are more clever.
They pass laws, which require native South Africans to carry permits in white areas, but his friend counters that these laws can’t be enforced and imprison innocent people. Some argue for greater segregation, others for greater education and opportunities. The white population lives barricaded behind their fear.
Mrs. Ndlela, whom Msimangu and Kumalo visited earlier in their search for Absalom, tells Msimangu that the police have visited her looking for Absalom and that she referred them to Mrs. Mkize. Before Msimangu can slip out on his own to investigate, however, he runs into Kumalo. He allows Kumalo to come along. The two retrace their search, going first to Mrs. Mkize, then to Shanty Town, and then to the reformatory school, where the young man’s assistant tells them that the young man seems troubled.
Their last stop is Alexandra, where Absalom’s girlfriend tells them that the police have visited her but that she does not know why, and a local woman says that the police seemed frustrated. Everyone agrees that the situation looks serious. Kumalo spends more of his precious savings on a taxi, and the two men begin a somber trip to Ezenzeleni.
Ch. 13
Kumalo and Msimangu travel to Ezenzeleni, a colony where white South Africans care for blind black South Africans. Msimangu has work to do here, so Kumalo sits by himself for some time and meditates. The thoughts of his grandson being born out of wedlock, his son’s thievery, and the murder bring him to despair, but he takes heart at the thought of returning to Ndotsheni with new humility. Kumalo’s newfound high spirits evaporate as he admits to himself that the ways of the tribe have been lost forever. When Msimangu returns and finds Kumalo in despair, Msimangu reminds Kumalo that despair is a sin.
Kumalo is comforted by the help given to the blind in Ezenzeleni and especially by Msimangu’s rousing sermon to the blind. He knows that Msimangu speaks to him when he says God will not forsake humankind. Some people criticize Msimangu for using his preaching gifts to teach patience while so many of his people die, but Kumalo feels spiritually refreshed.
Ch. 14
Gertrude’s furniture, the final remnants of her past, are sold at a great profit, but Kumalo feels only fear when he sees Msimangu approach Mrs. Lithebe’s house with the young man from the reformatory. The man tells him that his fears have been justified, that Absalom is in jail for the murder of Arthur Jarvis and that Absalom fired the shot. John’s son was with Absalom during the crime, and Kumalo goes to break the news to his brother. Devastated by the news, John goes with Kumalo to the mission, where Father Vincent offers them help, and the young man from the reformatory leads them to the prison.
In the prison’s visiting room, Kumalo and Absalom are finally reunited, but Absalom cannot look his father in the eye. He shifts and squirms and blames his condition on bad company and the devil, to Kumalo’s disgust, and tears up when the young man reproaches him for rejecting the lessons of the reformatory. Absalom states that he shot Jarvis, but he explains that he fired only because he was afraid, and maintains that he still wants to marry his girlfriend.
At the prison gates, Kumalo meets John again, but John is no longer in despair. He will get his son a lawyer, he says, adding that there is no proof that his son was even present at the time of the murder. Kumalo, John cruelly states, will not need a lawyer—his son is guilty and cannot be saved. The young man, embittered by his disappointment with Absalom, refuses to advise Kumalo and defiantly asserts that his work at the reformatory is important. He drives off, John leaves on foot, and Kumalo is left alone. Father Vincent, he decides, is his only hope.
Ch. 15
Before Kumalo can seek out Father Vincent, the man from the reformatory returns to apologize for his harsh language. He advises Kumalo that he will need a lawyer because John is untrustworthy. He says they need someone who will make sure John’s claim that his son was not there does not hurt Absalom, and who will argue that Absalom fired because he was afraid.
Kumalo and the young man go to see Father Vincent, and he tells them that he has a lawyer in mind and that he will also help with Absalom’s marriage. The young man leaves, and Kumalo speaks about his grief to Father Vincent. He is especially upset that he and his wife had no idea what was happening to their son in Johannesburg and that he has only found out now that it is too late. He is also wounded by his son’s apparent lack of remorse. Father Vincent is pained by Kumalo’s statements, but he reminds Kumalo that at least his sorrow has replaced his fear and that his son may well still be able to repent for his great evil. Kumalo allows himself a rare moment of bitterness, but Father Vincent refuses to let him remain cynical, insisting that Kumalo keep up the rituals of his religion in order to make true faith return.
Ch. 16
Kumalo, who has begun to find his way around Johannesburg, goes to Pimville on his own to visit Absalom’s girlfriend. She has not heard the news about Absalom, and when Kumalo tells her, she is devastated. Kumalo asks Absalom’s girlfriend if she still wishes to marry Absalom, and though she says she does, she seems confused. Kumalo presses her further, and she explains that her father left her mother because her mother was always drunk. She disliked her mother’s new boyfriend, so she ran away from home. Even though Absalom’s girlfriend is still almost a child herself, she has had three lovers since she left home. Her lovers, whom she calls “husbands,” have all been arrested. Kumalo is angered by her promiscuity and harshly asks her if she would accept him as a lover. Frightened and confused, she says she would.
Shocked by her answer, Kumalo covers his face with his hands, and she begins crying and lamenting. Ashamed of his behavior, Kumalo comforts her and asks if she would like to come with him to Ndotsheni and live with his family as their daughter. She gratefully responds that she would and assures him that her only desire is a quiet life. Kumalo is surprised to find himself laughing with pleasure, and after making Absalom’s girlfriend promise to tell him if she ever regrets her decision, he goes off to find her a new place to stay.
Ch. 17

Although Gertrude and Mrs. Lithebe get along, Mrs. Lithebe worries that Gertrude has a strange carelessness about her and is too friendly with strange men. Still, Mrs. Lithebe admires and respects Kumalo, and she agrees to let Absalom’s girlfriend move in. Kumalo, ecstatic with Mrs. Lithebe’s reply, plays with his nephew. Absalom’s girlfriend moves in and behaves with appropriate modesty. One day, however, Mrs. Lithebe comes upon Gertrude and Absalom’s girlfriend laughing in a way she does not like. She calls Absalom’s girlfriend to her and tells her that she must not laugh in this way, and the girl immediately understands and agrees. Gertrude continues with her strange behavior, though she now leaves Absalom’s girlfriend alone.

Kumalo goes to visit Absalom, who tells him that Absalom’s friends are denying that they were in the house with Absalom. Absalom gradually comes to agree with his father that his companions are not true friends. Absalom is pleased, however, by the prospect of having a lawyer, and he promises Kumalo that he will tell the lawyer nothing but the truth. He is also happy with the arrangements Kumalo has made for Absalom’s girlfriend. On his way out, Kumalo passes Absalom’s lawyer, a dignified white man with the air of a “chief.”
Some time later, the lawyer, Mr. Carmichael, visits Kumalo at the mission house. Absalom’s defense will be based on the truth, he says, and he will need as much information about Absalom’s character as possible. After Mr. Carmichael leaves, Kumalo frets about the legal costs, but Father Vincent informs him that Mr. Carmichael will take the case pro deo, or “for God”—meaning he will take case for free.
Ch. 18
The narrator repeats the descriptions of the hills of Natal that open Book I: the valleys are lovely, and the grass is thick and green. Looking down upon it all is High Place, the residence of a white farmer named James Jarvis, the father of the slain Arthur Jarvis. Jarvis hopes that rain will soon fall on his dry fields. The hills of Ndotsheni below are dry and barren from over-farming, and no one knows how to solve the problem. Jarvis ponders all the possible solutions to the over-farming. If only the native people would learn how to farm, he thinks, and if only those who were educated stayed to help their people instead of running to the city. Of course, his own son, Arthur, decided to leave the farm and become an engineer in Johannesburg, but he doesn’t begrudge Arthur his decision.
Standing on a ridge to look for rain clouds, Jarvis sees a police car approaching his home. He thinks that it must be one of the Afrikaner policemen—Afrikaners are white South Africans of Dutch descent largely considered by families of English descent to be of a lower class. Though he is of English descent, Jarvis believes that the local Afrikaners are a fine people. Two policemen, van Jaarsveld and Binnendyk, come to him with the shocking news that his son has been shot and killed. As Jarvis copes with the announcement, they offer to make arrangements to get him to Johannesburg as quickly as possible. He accepts their offer, and while one of the policemen calls to arrange for the flight, Jarvis breaks the bad news to his wife, who breaks down crying and screaming.
Ch. 19
Mr. Jarvis and his wife fly to Johannesburg and are greeted by John Harrison, the brother of their son’s wife, Mary. They travel to the house of John and Mary’s parents, where they meet Mary, her mother, and her father, Mr. Harrison. Jarvis, his wife, and Mary get into the car with John to go the mortuary. On the way there, John tells Jarvis that Arthur was an advocate for the rights of the country’s natives, an issue on which Mr. Harrison and Arthur did not see eye-to-eye.
After seeing Arthur’s body, the family returns to the Harrisons’, where Jarvis joins Mr. Harrison for a drink. Mr. Harrison tells him that condolence messages have poured in from every part of the community, including from the prime minister and mayor. He tells Jarvis that Arthur could speak Afrikaans and Zulu, that he was interested in learning Sesuto (a native language like Zulu), and that some wanted him to run for parliament. Arthur protested the housing conditions of the mines’ workers, ignoring warnings that he was jeopardizing his job as an engineer and maintaining that the truth was more important than money. Mr. Harrison calls Arthur a real crusader in his efforts for others, then reveals that all of white Johannesburg is scared stiff by the attacks. Though neither he nor Mr. Harrison share Arthur’s politics, Jarvis is moved by these stories about the respect his son inspired and about his son’s courage.
Jarvis goes to bed, where he shares the stories with his wife and expresses his regret that he did not know more about his son while Arthur was alive. He falls asleep in his wife’s arms, tormented by the question of why his son was murdered.
Ch. 20
Jarvis sits in his son’s house and looks at all his son’s books and papers. He notices that his son seems to have particularly admired Abraham Lincoln. Jarvis finds a letter addressed to Arthur from a boys’ club in the town of Claremont. He finds part of an article that his son was writing.
In this article, Arthur argues that it is unacceptable to keep black South Africans unskilled in order to provide labor for the mines, to break up African family life by housing only black workers but not their families, to deny black Africans educational opportunities, and to break the tribal system without creating a new moral order in its place. Absorbed in his son’s ideas and interested in learning more, Jarvis takes a copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. He then walks into the hallway where his son was killed and out of the house.
Ch. 21
Arthur’s funeral is packed with people from every walk of life, and for the first time, Jarvis sits in church with black people and shakes their hands. Afterward, Jarvis sits with Mr. Harrison. Mr. Harrison looks forward to getting revenge on Arthur’s murderer, but Jarvis says that it is too early for him to think in these terms.
Mr. Harrison speaks again about South Africa’s problems: the natives are committing crimes and forming unions to demand higher wages and, in general, starting trouble. John joins them, and Mr. Harrison gets even more agitated, arguing against the white Afrikaners as well as black South Africans for claiming that the mines steal the country’s natural resources. After asking John to take him to the boys’ club some time, Jarvis retires to bed.
The next morning, Mr. Harrison tells Jarvis that he has received word that Arthur’s servant has regained consciousness and has identified his assailant as a former garden boy of the Jarvises. He adds that the investigation can now move forward. Mr. Harrison also brings Jarvis the manuscript that Arthur was working on when he was killed.
In this manuscript, Arthur argues that those who say God created black people to be unskilled laborers are un-Christian because they wish to prevent a segment of the population from developing their God-given abilities. The European rule of South Africa, Arthur’s treatise says, is not a Christian one. Jarvis is deeply moved. He and his wife grieve that Arthur’s life was cut off before he could finish his writing and his life’s work.
Ch. 22

Absalom’s trial begins. Europeans sit on one side of the courtroom and non-Europeans sit on the other. The narrator notes that in South Africa, the judges are treated with great respect by all races, but though they are just, they often enforce unjust laws created by the white people. Absalom’s two accomplices plead not guilty, but Absalom’s lawyer says that Absalom will plead guilty only to “culpable homicide” since Absalom did not intend to kill Arthur Jarvis. The prosecutor denies this petition, however, and Absalom is forced to enter a plea of not guilty.

The other two defendants—John’s son, Matthew, and a man named Johannes Pafuri—look sad and shocked while Absalom tells his side of the story. Absalom says that Johannes planned the robbery after hearing “a voice” that told him a time and date. After entering Arthur Jarvis’s house, Absalom says, Johannes confronted Arthur’s servant and demanded money and clothes.
When the servant called out for his master, Johannes hit him over the head with an iron bar. Arthur burst in on the robbers, and Absalom fired his gun because he was frightened. He and his companions ran away. The judge asks Absalom why he brought the revolver, and Absalom says it was for his own protection. He also tells the court that Johannes brought the iron bar and claimed it had been blessed. The judge interrupts to ask Absalom if his father would bless such a weapon.
Absalom then resumes his narration: after the murder, he went to Mrs. Mkize’s house, where he met his accomplices, then buried his revolver in a plantation field. He says that anyone—Mrs. Mkize, Matthew, or Johannes—who denies this claim is lying. He then says that he prayed for forgiveness. He spent the following day wandering around Johannesburg and ended up in a friend’s house in Germiston. When the police found him there, they questioned him about Johannes, but Absalom told them that he himself shot Jarvis and indicated where the gun might be found. He meant to confess earlier, but he waited too long, and when the police arrived, he realized that waiting was a mistake. The court adjourns, and outside Kumalo sees Jarvis. He says nothing, however, because he feels that there is nothing he can possibly say to him.
Ch. 23

The trial receives little publicity because the front pages all carry news that gold has been discovered at Odendaalsrust. There is excitement at the stock exchange and talk of a “second Johannesburg” being built. Before the discovery of gold, the land was wasted, but the engineers’ patience has finally paid off, and the stock prices are soaring. The English say that it is a shame that these prodigious feats of engineering should have such ugly Afrikaans names and that it is a shame that the Afrikaners cannot see that a bilingual state is a waste of time. In the spirit of unity, however, they keep their thoughts to themselves.

An anonymous conservative voice takes over the chapter, noting that some do-gooders want the new profits to go toward subsidizing social services or higher wages for the miners. This voice notes that it is a pity that these people, most of whom have no financial standing to speak of, are so good with words, such as a strange priest named Father Beresford. The thinking of these people is muddled, the voice says, and the narrator unjustly accuses the people of Johannesburg of being greedy when many of the town’s prominent citizens actually give money to charities and collect art.
Another voice begins, this time one that is more liberal. It praises the work of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, who suggests that the new mines should house whole families in villages rather than house male workers in crowded compounds. Money is not everything, the voice says, and the world does not need a second Johannesburg.
Ch. 24

Jarvis returns to Arthur’s house and finds an article entitled “Private Essay on the Evolution of a South African.” In it, Arthur writes that he had an idyllic childhood and was raised by parents who taught him about honor, charity, and generosity. They taught him nothing, however, of South Africa. Jarvis is so hurt and angered by this statement that he almost leaves the house. At the last minute, he stops and returns to the essay. Arthur explains that he will now devote himself to truth and justice in his country, not because he is especially courageous, but because he wishes to be released from the contradictions that mar his everyday life.

He no longer wants to be idealistic in some parts of his life and self-protective in others. He hopes that his children will come to feel as he feels. Jarvis is moved and sits thinking for a long time. He eventually gets up to leave, and the narrator notes that the bloodstained back passageway where Arthur was killed holds no power over Jarvis now. Jarvis leaves from the front door.
Ch. 25

Jarvis and his wife go to visit one of Mrs. Jarvis’s favorite nieces, Barbara Smith. While the women go into town, Jarvis stays behind to read the newspaper’s reports on crime and the gold rush. There is a knock at the door, and when Jarvis opens it, he is surprised to see a frail black parson in tattered clothes. The parson seems shocked by the sight of Jarvis and begins trembling so much that he is forced to sit down on the house steps. Torn between compassion and irritation, Jarvis holds the parson’s stick and hat while the parson struggles to his feet and collects his scattered papers.

The parson explains that he is there to check on a friend’s daughter who had come to work for the household. Jarvis refers him to the house’s native servant, then realizes that the man before him must be the parson, known in Zulu as the “umfundisi,” of Ndotsheni, Jarvis’s hometown. Jarvis tells the parson that he may wait for the mistress of the house to return, then asks the old man why he is so afraid of him. The umfundisi, who does not give his name but is obviously Kumalo, reveals that it is his son who murdered Arthur Jarvis. Jarvis leaves abruptly to walk around the garden, and though he is obviously very emotional when he returns, he informs the parson that he is not angry. They share a memory of Arthur when he was young, and Kumalo tells Jarvis how saddened he is by the Jarvis family’s loss. Mrs. Smith returns and curtly informs Kumalo, through Jarvis, that the girl he seeks was fired after she was arrested for distilling liquor. She has no idea where the girl is now. The parson leaves, and when Mrs. Jarvis asks Jarvis why he seems disturbed, Jarvis makes a cryptic comment about a visit from the past.

ohn Kumalo addresses a crowd with his powerful voice. His voice rolls out beautifully, like thunder, but his comrades Dubula and Tomlinson listen with scorn and envy, for it is a powerful voice not backed by their courage or intelligence. John argues that the wealth from the new gold that has been found in South Africa should be shared with the miners. The crowd roars with John as he declares that the miners deserve higher wages and better conditions. Some of the white policemen on guard say that John should be shot or imprisoned. The narrator notes that while some leaders want to go to prison as martyrs, John does not, since he knows that in prison there is no applause. Toward the end of his speech, he states that he and the crowd do not want to trouble the police.

Stephen Kumalo and Msimangu are among the listeners. Kumalo is impressed, but Msimangu is skeptical—he knows that John lacks courage, and wonders why God should have given this man a gift of such oratorical skill. Still, he is thankful that John lacks heart, because he believes that if John backed up his words with action, he could plunge the country into violence and bloodshed. They move forward to hear the next speaker, Tomlinson. Jarvis and John Harrison, who have also been at the meeting, leave for Harrison’s club. Jarvis refuses to discuss what he has just seen, simply stating that he does not “care for that sort of thing.”
A police captain reports to his officer. He states that John Kumalo is dangerous and comments on the power of his voice. The officer comments on Kumalo’s voice as well, saying that he must go hear it one day. The captain wonders if there will be a strike. The officer replies that a strike could be a “nasty business.”
A police captain reports to his officer. He states that John Kumalo is dangerous and comments on the power of his voice. The officer comments on Kumalo’s voice as well, saying that he must go hear it one day. The captain wonders if there will be a strike. The officer replies that a strike could be a “nasty business.”
In the end, an anonymous voice tells us, the strike amounts to very little. There is some trouble at the mines, and three black miners are killed, but the strike never spreads. A clergyman at one of the nation’s religious conferences brings up the issue of black laborers, but, the voice notes, it’s easier not to think about such things.
The voice restates that the strike is over and notes that everything is quiet. Even in the most serene place, a voice retorts, there is no silence. Only fools are quiet.
Chapter 27

Mrs. Lithebe again reprimands Gertrude for talking and laughing carelessly. Gertrude is defensive and upset, and Mrs. Lithebe tells Gertrude that she does not understand the ways of decent people. Gertrude faults Johannesburg for her corruption and says she will be glad to be gone. Meanwhile, a neighbor brings a newspaper that announces that another white man has been murdered during a break-in by a native. The neighbor and Mrs. Lithebe worry that the news will hurt Absalom’s case. Msimangu arrives, and he and Mrs. Lithebe decide to hide the paper from Kumalo. To prevent Kumalo from hearing the news, they eat dinner at Mrs. Lithebe’s instead of at the mission.

Afterward, the group goes to church and listens to a woman describe her decision to become a nun. Later that night, Gertrude suggests to Mrs. Lithebe that she might become a nun. Mrs. Lithebe is pleased by the impulse, and says it warrants further thought. Gertrude asks Absalom’s girlfriend if she will look after Gertrude’s son if Gertrude becomes a nun, and the girl agrees. Gertrude makes Absalom’s girlfriend promise to keep Gertrude’s idea a secret until it is final, but Gertrude hopes out loud that this decision will keep her from her careless lifestyle.
Chapter 28

The judge delivers his verdict on Absalom’s crime. While a Zulu interpreter translates, the judge explains that even though Arthur’s servant identified Johannes as having been present during the break-in, there is not enough proof to convict Johannes. Although he acknowledges that Absalom’s testimony is vivid and that it was corroborated by plenty of circumstantial evidence, the judge also wonders out loud whether Absalom named his accomplices to alleviate his own guilt. For these reasons, the judge declares Johannes and Matthew not guilty, although he hopes there will be further investigation into their previous criminal activities.

The judge turns his attention to Absalom. He agrees with many of Mr. Carmichael’s arguments regarding Absalom’s remorse, the honesty of his testimony, and his youth. He also mentions Carmichael’s argument that the destruction of tribal society and the conditions of native life in Johannesburg contributed to the crime. The judge explains, however, that he must uphold the law, even if that law was made by an unjust society. If Absalom had truly fired in fear, the judge says, the charge of murder would have to be dropped, but he says the fact that Absalom brought a loaded revolver into the house and that the servant was struck with an iron bar demonstrate an intention to kill. Therefore, he finds Absalom guilty of murder. The judge believes there are no special grounds for mercy, which means that Absalom is sentenced to hang. Only the governor-general-in-council can lessen Absalom’s sentence. The young man from the reformatory, who has attended the trial, crosses the color line that separates whites and blacks in the courtroom in order to help Kumalo exit.
Ch 29

Father Vincent, Kumalo, Gertrude, Msimangu, and Absalom’s girlfriend go to the prison so that Absalom can be married. After the marriage, Absalom and his father have a final meeting. Absalom sends his remembrances to his mother and directs his father to his last savings and possessions, which will help with the upkeep of his son. Kumalo bitterly mentions that he finds it hard to forgive Matthew and Johannes for abandoning Absalom. The time comes for Absalom to be taken away, and he begins to weep because he is afraid of dying. Two guards have to pull Absalom from his father’s knees when it is time for Kumalo to leave. Outside, Absalom’s girlfriend joyfully greets Kumalo as her father, but he is too distracted to pay much attention to her.

Kumalo goes to say good-bye to his brother. After some tense pleasantries, John tells Kumalo that he intends to bring Matthew back to his shop once the trouble has passed. Kumalo asks John where his politics are taking him. John replies that Kumalo should not interfere with his politics since he does not interfere with Kumalo’s religion. Kumalo warns John that his words may get him in trouble with the police, and when he sees fear in his brother’s eyes, Kumalo presses further in order to hurt John. Kumalo lies and says that he has heard that a spy has come to John’s shop and has been reporting on the secret conversations John conducts there. When John shakes his head at the thought of being betrayed by a friend, Kumalo angrily cries out that his son had two such friends. John drives him from the store, and Kumalo walks away, distressed that he has failed in his mission to warn John against the corrupting influence of power.
The Jarvises bid their farewell to the Harrisons, who agree with the sentencing and wish the other two men had been convicted as well. Jarvis agrees. At the station, Jarvis slips John Harrison an envelope containing a check for a thousand pounds for the boys’ club that John and Arthur founded.
There is a farewell gathering for Kumalo at Mrs. Lithebe’s house. Msimangu tells Kumalo that he has decided to renounce all of his possessions and become a monk. He gives Kumalo his savings, over thirty-three pounds—more money than Kumalo has ever possessed. Kumalo falls to his knees in amazement and decides to send John a letter to apologize for his actions. The following morning, he wakes Absalom’s wife for the journey to Ndotsheni. In Gertrude’s room, however, he finds her son and her clothes neatly laid out, but Gertrude is gone.
Ch. 30

The trains carry Kumalo, Absalom’s wife, and Gertrude’s son back to Ndotsheni. They are greeted warmly, and Kumalo’s wife refers to the young girl as her daughter. As they walk to Kumalo’s home, they encounter people from the village who tell Kumalo how happy they are to have their umfundisi back. They confess that they are worried about the drought that is starving their crops. A friend tells Kumalo that the Jarvises have returned and that the villagers are aware of what Absalom has done.

When Kumalo arrives at his church, he finds a gathering of followers already assembled, and he leads them in a prayer. He asks for rain, for the welcome of Absalom’s wife and Gertrude’s son, and for forgiveness for Gertrude and Absalom. After the service, he speaks with his friend from the railroad station. Kumalo tells his friend all about Gertrude and Absalom. He says that since the news will soon be known, his friend should spread the word. Kumalo worries that he is too disgraced to lead his congregation, but his friend assures him otherwise. When his friend asks about Sibeko’s daughter, Kumalo tells his friend that the girl is lost. Kumalo comes home in time to wish Absalom’s wife goodnight, then sits up with his wife discussing Msimangu’s gift and other, sadder matters.
Chapter 31

Kumalo prays that his village can be restored. He visits the village chief, but he cannot share in the chief’s optimism, as it is all too clear that the white men made the chiefs powerless and left mere figureheads in their place. The chief shares Kumalo’s concern about the departure of the young people of the village for Johannesburg but has no new ideas about how to change things, and he concludes the interview by sadly resolving to try to bring these issues up with the local magistrate once more.

Kumalo visits the school headmaster, but he fears that the headmaster’s teachings about farming are more academic than practical. He considers them pleasant theories that do not prevent the valley from drying up and its children from dying.
As Kumalo mulls over his disappointments, Arthur’s son rides by on horseback. He is staying with his grandfather. He greets Kumalo with uncustomary politeness and asks to see his home. The boy asks for a drink of milk, but there is no milk in Ndotsheni. He asks what children do without milk, and Kumalo tells him that some children are dying. The small boy practices his Zulu with Kumalo and rides off.
That evening, a worker from Jarvis’s farm delivers milk to be given to all of the small children in Ndotsheni. Overwhelmed by the suddenness of this gift, Kumalo laughs until he is sore.
Chapter 32

Four letters are delivered to Kumalo’s household. One, from Mr. Carmichael, explains that Absalom will not be given mercy and will be hanged that month. Another is from Absalom. Kumalo and his wife read this letter together. Absalom writes that he is comfortable in the Pretoria prison and is being ministered to by a priest, but he knows now that he must die. He writes simply and directly about his life in prison and states that he now understands that he belongs in Ndotsheni. The third letter is from Absalom for his wife. The fourth letter is from Msimangu, and when Kumalo reads Msimangu’s descriptions of Johannesburg, he is surprised to find himself missing the city.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited storm that will break the drought rolls in. Kumalo sees Jarvis and the local magistrate drive into Ndotsheni and plant some sticks with flags. The chief is charged with making sure that no one tampers with the flags. After commenting that Jarvis is rumored to be both mad and bankrupt, the magistrate leaves, while Jarvis stays behind to measure the land.
When the storm comes, he seeks shelter in Kumalo’s church. The two sit together under Kumalo’s leaky roof, and Jarvis asks whether Absalom has received mercy. Kumalo shows him the letter from Mr. Carmichael, and Jarvis says that he understands Kumalo’s grief.
When the storm passes, the residents of Ndotsheni examine the sticks with great curiosity. When a child uproots one, there is much commotion, and the whole village conspires to put the stick back in its place and conceal all evidence of its removal.
Chapter 33

It is rumored that the sticks mark the place were a dam will be built in Ndotsheni. Absalom’s wife and Gertrude’s son settle rapidly into their new home. Arthur’s son comes to visit Kumalo again and practice his Zulu. He tells Kumalo that he will return to Johannesburg when his grandfather comes back from Pietermaritzburg, and Kumalo comments that Ndotsheni will lose something bright when the boy leaves.

Kumalo teaches Arthur’s son some new Zulu words and explains their origins. When Kumalo’s wife joins them, the boy surprises her with his command of the language.
Arthur’s son sees Jarvis’s car climbing the hill and gallops eagerly after it to welcome his grandfather home. A young black man comes to Kumalo’s church and introduces himself to Kumalo. His name is Napoleon Letsitsi, and he is an agricultural expert hired by Jarvis to teach better farming techniques. He agrees to stay with the Kumalos while he helps to recover the valley. It will be difficult, Letsitsi says, because he will have to teach the people that their land must be farmed for the common good, not for each individual’s best interests.
Hardest of all, he says, will be convincing people to stop measuring their wealth in cattle, as cattle damage the land and do not allow it to recover. Letsitsi confirms that a dam is being built. Arthur’s son returns to say good-bye to Kumalo. He promises to continue his Zulu lessons during his holidays.
Chapter 34

As Kumalo and his congregation prepare for a confirmation ceremony at the church, one of Jarvis’s workers brings word that Jarvis’s wife, Margaret, has died. As the women lament, Kumalo writes a letter of condolence to Jarvis in which he mentions that he suspects that Margaret is partly responsible for the great contributions Jarvis is making to the village.

He questions whether to send it, wondering whether Arthur’s murder is somehow the cause of the sickness that killed her. He decides, however, that Jarvis is a man who stays by the path he has chosen, and sends the letter.At the confirmation, rain leaks through the roof of the church and onto the congregation. Afterward, Kumalo and the Bishop meet privately.
The Bishop thinks that Kumalo should leave Ndotsheni because his son killed Jarvis’s son, and because Absalom’s wife became pregnant out of wedlock. He has found a position for Kumalo where no one will know of these things. Kumalo is crushed but swallows the Bishop’s arguments and obeys.
As he and the Bishop are talking, however, a timely letter arrives. Jarvis has written back, thanking Kumalo for his sympathy and assuring him that Arthur’s murder had nothing to do with his wife’s illness. He wants to build a new church for Ndotsheni. Elated, Kumalo shows the letter to the Bishop, and the Bishop agrees that it is God’s will for Kumalo to stay in Ndotsheni. Kumalo comes home to find his wife and other church members hard at work on a sympathy wreath for the Jarvis family. He sends a local man to gather the appropriate flowers for a white man’s wreath.
Chapter 35

Napoleon Letsitsi, the agricultural expert, teaches the people new ways to plow. He plans to build a kraal, where the cattle will be kept. The villagers work with new spirit, but the ones who have had to give up their land are sullen. The future, Letsitsi tells Kumalo, will hold even bigger changes, and he hopes that the people will see the need for these changes themselves and not have to be convinced.

Kumalo praises Letsitsi, but Letsitsi is worried that it will take time for great improvements to happen. Letsitsi also speaks eagerly of the time when the people will not need to take the white man’s milk but will instead be able to provide milk of their own. Kumalo is disturbed by this sentiment, but Letsitsi is insistent.
He is grateful to Jarvis, he says, and to other good white men, but though they pay his salary, he works for Africa and not for them. It is the white man’s policies that have made such improvements necessary, he says, and these efforts are only repayment for a debt long overdue. Letsitsi assures Kumalo, however, that he is not there to make trouble.
Kumalo gives Letsitsi a final warning about hatred and power and is glad to see that the young man is interested in neither. Kumalo stands for a minute gazing at the stars and reflecting that these new, radical politics have come too late for him. There are some who might call him a white man’s dog, Kumalo thinks, but it is the way he has lived, and he has done with it what he can.
Chapter 36

Kumalo has a place he goes to contemplate the weightier things in life, and on the night before Absalom is to die, he travels to this mountaintop to keep vigil. On the way, he meets Jarvis, who informs him that plans for the new church will arrive shortly. Jarvis thanks Kumalo for the sympathy wreath. They speak of Arthur’s son, then reminisce about Arthur himself. Jarvis asks where Kumalo is going, and when Kumalo replies, he says that he understands. Kumalo thanks Jarvis for all he has done for the village and tells Jarvis that he has been touched by God.

In his place of solitude, Kumalo goes over Absalom’s letters from prison, in which Absalom assures him that if he could return to Ndotsheni, he would. Kumalo repents for his own sins and gives thanks for the many blessings he has received during his time of trouble. He wakes up and turns his mind to the suffering of others—the missing Gertrude, the people of Shanty Town, his own wife, and above all, Absalom. Kumalo reflects on the plight of Africa and on Msimangu’s whispered fear that by the time the white man learns to love, the black man will have learned to hate. He sleeps and wakes up just before dawn, wondering what his son, who will be hanged when the sun rises, is doing at that moment. The light rises, and the narrator wonders when the light of emancipation will come to the forsaken land of South Africa.
Which of the following men is not a priest?

(A) Msimangu
(B) Father Vincent
(C) Mr. Carmichael
(D) Kumalo

Mr. Carmichael
Whom does Kumalo bring from Johannesburg to Ndotsheni?

(A) Msimangu and Mrs. Lithebe
(B) Absalom’s wife and Gertrude’s son
(C) Absalom and Gertrude
(D) Jarvis and his grandson

Absalom’s wife and Gertrude’s son
What money does Kumalo use for his trip to Johannesburg?

(A) The money he and his wife have been saving for Absalom’s schooling
(B) The money he has been saving to build a new church
(C) Money given to him by Msimangu
(D) Money given to him by Jarvis

The money he and his wife have been saving for Absalom’s schooling
What happens to Gertrude at the end of the novel?

(A) She becomes a nun
(B) She returns to prostitution
(C) She gets married
(D) She disappears

she disappears
Who is John Harrison?

(A) Jarvis’s nephew
(B) Mary’s husband
(C) Arthur’s brother-in-law
(D) Jarvis’s grandson

Arthur’s brother in law
Why don’t black mine workers bring their families to Johannesburg?

(A) Their families prefer to stay in the rural villages
(B) The mine workers prefer to live alone
(C) There is no housing for the families
(D) Johannesburg is too dangerous for wives and children

There is no housing for the families
What happens when the police catch Absalom?

(A) He makes a desperate effort to escape
(B) He confesses everything
(C) He attempts to harm himself
(D) He writes to his father

he confesses everything
Who comes to visit Kumalo and practice his Zulu?

(A) Arthur’s son
(B) Jarvis’s son
(C) John Harrison
(D) Gertrude’s son

Arthur’s son
Who is pregnant when the novel ends?

(A) Mary Jarvis
(B) Gertrude
(C) Mrs. Kumalo
(D) Absalom’s wife

Absalom’s wife
What happens in the church in Ndotsheni during the confirmation?

(A) Part of the roof falls in
(B) The roof leaks rain
(C) A little girl runs out crying
(D) Arthur’s son runs in screaming

the roof leaks rain
Why are the village children dying?

(A) They lack milk
(B) They lack bread
(C) They lack medicine
(D) They lack juice

they lack milk
What is the topic of John’s speech, to which Kumalo and Jarvis listen?

(A) The need for a violent uprising against the whites
(B) The need for new schools for the children
(C) The rights of black South Africans to vote
(D) The need for higher wages for black miners

the need for higher wages for black miners
Who dies on confirmation day in Ndotsheni?

(A) Absalom
(B) Margaret Jarvis
(C) The Bishop
(D) Mrs. Kumalo

margaret Jarvis
What does umfundisi mean?

(A) “White person”
(B) “Sir”
(C) “Parson”
(D) “Judge

Why does Kumalo go up into the mountain?

(A) To ponder how to help Ndotsheni
(B) To await Absalom’s execution
(C) To meet Jarvis
(D) To exercise

to await Absalom’s execution
What does the novel say is the basis of Johannesburg’s wealth?

(A) Gold
(B) Copper
(C) Oil
(D) Silver

Why was Absalom at the reformatory?

(A) He had gotten a girl pregnant
(B) He had attempted to kill a man
(C) He was in trouble for his political views
(D) He was in trouble for stealing

he was in trouble for stealing
Where are Absalom and Kumalo finally reunited?

(A) At the Mission House
(B) At the prison
(C) In the courtroom
(D) In Shanty Town

at the prison
What weapon does Johannes carry when the boys try to rob Arthur Jarvis?

(A) A gun
(B) A knife
(C) An iron rod
(D) A wooden stick

an iron rod
Other than his politics, how does John Kumalo make his living?

(A) He is a lawyer
(B) He is a farmer
(C) He is a carpenter
(D) He is a teacher

he is a carpenter
Why did Absalom’s wife run away from her home?

(A) She fought with her brothers
(B) Her mother drank too much and she did not get along with her stepfather
(C) She was pregnant
(D) She wanted to work

her mother drank too much and she did not get along with her stepfather
Who gives Msimangu and Kumalo a ride to Alexandra?

(A) A white driver
(B) A black driver
(C) The police
(D) John Kumalo

a white driver
What is the chief’s role in building the dam?

(A) He is the engineer
(B) He is paying for it
(C) He has no role
(D) He is in charge of guarding the flags

he is in charge of guarding the flags
Which priest marries Absalom and his girlfriend?

(A) Kumalo
(B) Msimangu
(C) Johannes Pafuri
(D) Father Vincent

Father Vincent
Who orchestrates the building of Shanty Town?

(A) John Kumalo
(B) Tomlinson
(C) Dubula
(D) Arthur Jarvis

John Kumalo
History of Apartheid in South Africa

South Africa is a country blessed with an abundance of natural resources including fertile farmlands and unique mineral resources. South African mines are world leaders in the production of diamonds and gold as well as strategic metals such as platinum.

South Africa was colonized by the English & Dutch in the 17th century. English domination of the Dutch descendents (known as Boers or Afrikaners) resulted in the Dutch establishing the new colonies of Orange Free State & Transvaal. The discovery of diamonds in these lands around 1900 resulted in an English invasion which sparked the Boer War. Following independence from England, an uneasy power-sharing between the two groups held sway until the 1940’s, when the Afrikaner National Party was able to gain a strong majority. The National Party leaders invented apartheid as a means to cement their control over the economic and social system. Initially, aim of the apartheid was to maintain white domination while extending racial separation. Starting in the 60’s, a plan of “Grand Apartheid” was executed, emphasizing territorial separation & police repression.
With the enactment of apartheid laws in 1948, racial discrimination was institutionalized. Race laws touched every aspect of social life, including a prohibition of marriage between non-whites and whites, and the sanctioning of “white-only” jobs. In 1950, the Population Registration Act required that all South Africans be racially classified into one of 3 categories: white, black (African), or colored (of mixed decent).
The determination that a person was “obviously white” would take into account “his habits, education, & speech and deportment and demeanor.” A black person would be of or accepted as a member of an African tribe or race, & a colored person is one that is not black or white. The Department of Home Affairs (a government bureau) was responsible for the classification of the citizenry. Non-compliance with the race laws were dealt with harshly. All blacks were required to carry “pass books” containing fingerprints, photo and information on access to non-black areas
1910s-1930s: Africans educated at missionary schools attempt to organize to resist white rule and gain political power. Their efforts are weakened because few Africans are literate, communication is poor, and access to money or other resources is limited.

· By 1939, fewer than 30% of Africans are receiving any formal education, and whites are earning over five times as much as Africans.

· 1936: Representation of Voters Act: This law weakens the political rights for Africans in some regions and allows them to vote only for white representatives.

1946: African mine workers are paid twelve times less than their white counterparts and are forced to do the most dangerous jobs. Over 75,000 Africans go on strike in support of higher wages. Police use violence to force the unarmed workers back to their jobs. Over 1000 workers are injured or killed.
1950: The Population Registration Act. This law classifies people into three racial groups: white, colored (mixed race or Asian), and native (African/black). Marriages between races are outlawed in order to maintain racial purity.

· 1953: The Preservation of Separate Amenities Act establishes “separate but not necessarily equal” parks, beaches, post offices, and other public places for whites and non-whites.


The white man has broken the tribe. And it is my belief—and again I ask your pardon—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.

Msimangu makes this statement in Chapter 5 after he welcomes Kumalo to Johannesburg, while discussing the troubles of Gertrude and Absalom. Msimangu explains to Kumalo what he believes has gone wrong with their country: the tribal bonds have been broken, giving young men and women no reason to stay in their villages. These youths then go to Johannesburg, where they inevitably lose their way and become morally corrupt. Msimangu is very explicit about the cause-and-effect relationship that he perceives between the deterioration of black culture and crime against whites. As such, he expresses the novel’s central preoccupation with the matter of tribal structure and its important role in holding the country’s black population together.

I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men . . . desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it. . . . I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating.

Msimangu speaks these words in Chapter 7 immediately after he and Kumalo meet with John. Msimangu doubts John’s convictions, and instead of calling him a champion of justice, Msimangu calls John an example of power’s corrupting influence. Msimangu warns that power can corrupt black people as much as it corrupts white people. It is exactly this corruption that keeps South Africa in its predicament, and in this passage Msimangu unveils his dream of a selfless Christian faith that will bind all people—black and white—together.
Msimangu’s fear that by the time “they”—the whites—turn to loving, “we”—the blacks—will have turned to hating calls attention to Kumalo’s sense of the shift in black attitudes toward whites. Although Kumalo and Msimangu, members of an older generation, do not wish to cause strife, younger men such as Napoleon Letsitsi are less willing to tolerate white oppression.
The willingness to be reconciled exists among both blacks and whites, Msimangu suggests, but never at the same time. Through Msimangu, Paton hints at the sad irony of a nation in which justice and racial equality are stymied by poor timing rather than bad intentions.

This is no time to talk of hedges and fields, or the beauties of any country. . . . Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.

This quotation, from Chapter 11, stands in contrast to the novel’s early tendency to dwell on the lush South African landscape and urges sorrow instead. By breaking out of this pattern and addressing us with such urgency, the narrator reflects how grave and ingrained South Africa’s problems are. The quotation’s ominous last line is a note of prophetic foreshadowing of Absalom’s death, and though it certainly reflects the pessimism Kumalo and his brethren may feel, it also informs us that this episode is one of many blows that South Africa has yet to endure.

The truth is that our civilization is not Christian; it is a tragic compound of great ideal and fearful practice, of high assurance and desperate anxiety, of loving charity and fearful clutching of possessions. Allow me a minute. . . .

These words are written by Arthur Jarvis and read by his father in Chapter 21. Arthur contrasts a Christianity that supports the notion of black people as inferior with a true Christianity that rejects white superiority. Some Christians, Arthur says, argue that it is God’s will that black South Africans remain unskilled workers. Trying to educate them would be an un-Christian action, and therefore wrong. Arthur argues, however, that every human being has the right to develop his or her God-given gifts. Because South Africa ignores this principle, Arthur argues, it is not a truly Christian state.
The cut-off sentence that closes Arthur’s statement is especially poignant for his father, as these are the last words that Arthur writes before going downstairs to his death. Ironically, Arthur Jarvis is on the verge of envisioning a new South Africa when the problems of the old one cut him down. This tragic turn of events indicates the dire need for change.

And now for all the people of Africa, the beloved country. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, God save Africa. But he would not see that salvation. It lay afar off, because men were afraid of it. Because, to tell the truth, they were afraid of him, and his wife, and Msimangu, and the young demonstrator. And what was there evil in their desires, in their hunger? That man should walk upright in the land where they were born, and be free to use the fruits of the earth, what was there evil in it? . . . They were afraid because they were so few. And such fear could not be cast out, but by love.

These thoughts are part of the novel’s conclusion, as Kumalo keeps his vigil on the mountain while Absalom hangs. Kumalo prays for Africa, even though he knows it will be a long time before his prayers are answered. He understands that fear is the root of injustice: white men fear black men because there are so few whites and so many blacks. They worry that if the basic needs of the black population are met, then there will be little left for them. Kumalo observes, however, that there is nothing evil in him or his desires, or in his people’s desire for a better life. They want simply their due as humans (to “walk upright” and “use the fruits of the earth”). They are not motivated by hatred and revenge, but by a simple desire for dignity. Kumalo’s rumination ends with a somewhat troubling paradox: for whites to stop being afraid, they must begin to understand and then love; in order to understand and then love, however, they must stop being afraid. It thus seems impossible for whites and blacks to exist as equals.
Cry, the Beloved Country

author · Alan Paton

type of work · Novel

genre · Father’s quest for his son; courtroom drama; social criticism

time and place written · Various parts of Europe and the United States, in 1946

date of first publication · 1948

narrator · The third-person narrator is omniscient, or all-knowing, and temporarily inhabits many different points of view.
point of view · Books I and III are largely told from Kumalo’s point of view, while Book II is told largely from Jarvis’s point of view. A number of chapters, however, feature a montage of voices from different layers of South African society, and the narrator also shows things from other characters’ perspectives from time to time.
tone · Lyrical, grieving, elegiac, occasionally bitter

tense · Past

setting (time) · Mid-1940s, just after World War II

setting (place) · Ndotsheni and Johannesburg, South Africa

protagonist · Stephen Kumalo; James Jarvis
major conflict · Stephen Kumalo struggles against the forces (white oppression, the corrupting influences of city life) that destroy his family and his country
foreshadowing · When Kumalo sees in the newspaper that a white man has been killed by native South Africans during a break-in, he has a premonition that Absalom is involved.

Reconciliation Between Fathers and Sons

Cry, the Beloved Country chronicles the searches of two fathers for their sons. For Kumalo, the search begins as a physical one, and he spends a number of days combing Johannesburg in search of Absalom.

Although most of his stops yield only the faintest clues as to Absalom’s whereabouts, the clues present a constantly evolving picture of who Absalom has become. As Kumalo knocks on the doors of Johannesburg’s slums, he hears of his son’s change from factory worker to burglar, then from promising reformatory pupil to killer. When Kumalo and Absalom are finally reunited after Absalom’s incarceration, they are virtual strangers to each other. The ordeal of the trial brings them closer together, but it is not until after the guilty verdict that Kumalo begins to understand Absalom. In Absalom’s letters from prison, Kumalo finds evidence of true repentance and familiar flashes of the little boy he remembers.
Jarvis has no actual searching to do, but it takes him little time to realize that he knows little about his own son. Away from Ndotsheni, Arthur has become a tireless advocate for South Africa’s black population, an issue on which he and his father have not always agreed.
Reconciliation with a dead man might seem an impossible task, but Jarvis finds the necessary materials in Arthur’s writings, which give Jarvis clear and succinct insights into the man that Arthur had become, and even instill in Jarvis a sense of pride.

The Vicious Cycle of Inequality and Injustice

Kumalo’s search for his son takes place against the backdrop of massive social inequalities, which, if not directly responsible for Absalom’s troubles, are certainly catalysts for them. Because black South Africans are allowed to own only limited quantities of land, the natural resources of these areas are sorely taxed. The soil of Ndotsheni turns on its inhabitants—exhausted by over-planting and over-grazing, the land becomes sharp and hostile.

For this reason, most young people leave the villages to seek work in the cities. Both Gertrude and Absalom find themselves caught up in this wave of emigration, but the economic lure of Johannesburg leads to danger. Facing limited opportunities and disconnected from their family and tribal traditions, both Gertrude and Absalom turn to crime.
Gertrude’s and Absalom’s stories recur on a large scale in Johannesburg, and the result is a city with slum neighborhoods and black gangs that direct their wrath against whites. In search of quick riches, the poor burglarize white homes and terrorize their occupants. The white population then becomes paranoid, and the little sympathy they do have for problems such as poor mine conditions disappears.
Blacks find themselves subjected to even more injustice, and the cycle spirals downward. Both sides explain their actions as responses to violence from the other side. Absalom’s lawyer, for instance, claims that Absalom is society’s victim, and white homeowners gather government troops to counter what they see as a rising menace. There is precious little understanding on either side, and it seems that the cycle of inequality and injustice will go on endlessly.

Christianity and Injustice

In the tremendous hardships that Kumalo faces, his main solace comes from his faith in God. When he finds out what has happened to his son, his faith is shaken but not broken, and he turns to his fellow priests for comfort. Much of Kumalo’s time is spent in prayer, both for the souls lost in Johannesburg and for the fractured society of his village. Not just a form of comfort, Christianity proves to be a tool for resisting oppressive authority as well.

Arthur Jarvis’s final essay, for example, calls the policies of South Africa’s mine un-Christian. Some allusions are made as well to the priests who have made social justice in South Africa their leading cause. As demonstrated with Msimangu, religion is often held up as South Africa’s only possible means of avoiding the explosion of its racial tensions
Christianity is also, however, associated with injustice. John Kumalo reminds his brother that black priests are paid less than white ones, and argues that the church works against social change by reconciling its members to their suffering. He paints an infuriating picture of a bishop who condemns injustice while living in the luxury that such injustice provides. At the same time as he calls the policies of the mines un-Christian, Arthur Jarvis states that these policies have long been justified through faulty Christian reasoning. Arthur Jarvis mentions that some people argue that God meant for blacks to be unskilled laborers and that it is thus wrong to provide opportunities for improvement and education. The novel frequently explores the idea that in the wrong hands, Christianity can put a needy population to sleep or lend legitimacy to oppressive ideas.
At the same time as he calls the policies of the mines un-Christian, Arthur Jarvis states that these policies have long been justified through faulty Christian reasoning. Arthur Jarvis mentions that some people argue that God meant for blacks to be unskilled laborers and that it is thus wrong to provide opportunities for improvement and education. The novel frequently explores the idea that in the wrong hands, Christianity can put a needy population to sleep or lend legitimacy to oppressive ideas.

Descriptions of Nature

The novel’s descriptions of the beauty of Natal highlight the contrast between the various ways of life in South Africa. The hills and rivers of white farmland are always depicted as being fruitful and lovely, but the land of the black farmers is always shown as barren, dry, and hostile.

This contrast between the natural beauty of South Africa and the ugliness brought on by its politics shows the necessity of change. It also, however, offers some hope. The land may be ravaged, but it is clearly not naturally infertile. With the right nurturing and protection, the potential for real beauty seems endless.


Throughout the novel, a number of characters lash out in anger. Msimangu speaks harshly when he learns that Absalom has abandoned his girlfriend, the young man from the reformatory speaks harshly when he is disappointed in Absalom, and Kumalo gets upset, at various times, with his wife, his son’s girlfriend, and his brother. Often, these episodes are truly ugly. When the young man whirls on Kumalo, for example, his anger is made even uglier by Kumalo’s fragile helplessness. Similarly, when Kumalo cruelly asks Absalom’s girlfriend if she will be his lover, the combination of lechery and bullying is unappealing.

Even acts as vile as these, however, can be atoned for by sincere repentance. Although the characters lash out in anger, their repentance is always met with forgiveness, and even the gravest insults are excused. This pattern demonstrates the power of caring to overcome bitterness. Social relationships are torn by anger, but they can be mended with kindness.

Repeated Phrases

A number of phrases are repeated throughout the novel, and they show subtle changes in meaning every time they appear. One such phrase is “as was the custom” or “it was not the custom.” Kumalo expects to be treated as an inferior by white people in small, customary ways. When these customs are violated, the concessions seem to be minor, but the repetition of the phrase alerts us as to how often these small acts of defiance occur.

The seriousness of these actions is summed up in the phrase “not a thing to be done lightly,” which also appears with some frequency. Instances of reconciliation are often so nuanced in the novel that we can easily miss their significance and think that Kumalo’s and Jarvis’s efforts have all been for nothing. With the recurrence of the phrase “not a thing to be done lightly,” however, it becomes clearer that taboos are being broken more and more and that blacks and whites are inching closer to change.

The Church

The church in Ndotsheni is a simple, rough structure that represents a faith that is humble and unpretentious. With its leaky roof, the church seems to offer little shelter from the elements, but confirmations and other ceremonies occur there nonetheless—with nothing better available, the congregation must simply make do.

Although it is a house of God, the church is also closely linked to Kumalo. It is introduced to us almost as an extension of his house, and it is he who decides when services will be held and does its accounting. When Kumalo returns from Johannesburg, it becomes apparent that his young successor has had no success in making the church his own, and that both the building and its flock are fundamentally Kumalo’s. Jarvis’s offer to build a new church for the community is a symbol not only of his commitment to Ndotsheni but also of his new friendship with Kumalo.


Both Arthur and his son are notable for their “brightness,” a symbol of their eager intellects and generous hearts. Although they don’t shine physically, there is still something inherently brilliant about them that holds unquestionable promise. The novel’s mystical way of describing them is strongly reminiscent of the language typically used to describe angels, messengers of God who take human form but are somehow obviously more than human.

The character of Arthur’s son seems to be especially developed as an almost divine agent. He rides around Ndotsheni on his horse, appearing periodically to raise Kumalo’s spirits, and his visits are occasionally followed by some generosity from his grandfather (an unexpected milk delivery, for example, or the arrival of Napoleon Letsitsi). Both Arthur and his son, then, help to bring good to their fellow men.
Stephen Kumalo

Stephen Kumalo is the protagonist and moral compass of Cry, the Beloved Country. He is a quiet, humble man, with a strong faith in God and a clear sense of right and wrong. An Anglican priest, Kumalo cares for his parishioners and presides over the modest church of the village he calls home. By village standards, Kumalo and his wife are middle-class, living in a house with several rooms. They struggle, however, to save money for their son’s schooling and for a new stove. Kumalo is not flawless, and he occasionally erupts in anger and tells lies. Praying to God, however, saves him from temptation, and he always repents when he speaks unfairly.

Stephen Kumalo

Stephen Kumalo is the protagonist and moral compass of Cry, the Beloved Country. He is a quiet, humble man, with a strong faith in God and a clear sense of right and wrong. An Anglican priest, Kumalo cares for his parishioners and presides over the modest church of the village he calls home. By village standards, Kumalo and his wife are middle-class, living in a house with several rooms. They struggle, however, to save money for their son’s schooling and for a new stove. Kumalo is not flawless, and he occasionally erupts in anger and tells lies. Praying to God, however, saves him from temptation, and he always repents when he speaks unfairly.