Cry, the Beloved Country

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Cry, the Beloved Country is a novel written in 1948 by South Africa native Alan Paton depicting life and events in South Africa from both a black man's and white man's perspective. It is split into three distinct books. The first and third are from the perspective of one Stephen Kumalo, a black reverend, and the second from that of the white James Jarvis. Both the first and second books open with the same poetic description of Ndotsheni and the forlorn crying of the titihoya.

Summary

The Reverend Stephen Kumalo receives a letter from one Theophilus Msimangu, reporting that Msimangu has met the man's daughter, Gertrude, and that she is very sick. Kumalo is nervous in going to Johannesburg, where Gertrude is, as both Gertrude and Stephen's son Absalom have gone there but not returned. He goes regardless, with most of his family's money, a pound of which he is cheated of in a train station. In Johannesburg, he discovers city life for the first time, such as traffic lights and a bus boycott. He rooms in Shanty Town, a crowded place of rented rooms, with one Mrs. Lithebe, who does not often let her rooms, and Msimangu and one Father Vincent.

He finds his brother, John Kumalo, whose voice is over compared to that of a lion or bull. Kumalo speaks with emphatic words to crowds, trying to keep them excited but not too much so, to preserve order. He finds his sister, Gertrude, who has gone into alcohol and prostitution. He finds his son Absalom, who is in jail for the murder of Arthur Jarvis. Absalom refuses to say anything to his father besides what his father has said, and maintains that the crime was accidental. He cannot explain why he felt he needed a revolver or why he entered Jarvis's house. Book One ends with the expectation of Absalom going to court.

Meanwhile, James Jarvis, the father of Arthur Jarvis, is informed by his brother-in-law, John Harrison, that Arthur is dead. Jarvis is angry and hopes the native killer is caught. He attends the court trial and funeral for his son, in which Absalom is sentenced to death in an electric chair. Jarvis finds that his son has been writing a fascinating essay, never to be completed, entitled The Truth Behind Native Crime.

In the third book, Kumalo and Jarvis go to Ndotsheni. Kumalo teaches a young boy Zulu, and the white people try to teach modern agriculture to natives. They express the difficulties of teaching and learning to each other, and discuss various other issues such as education in Johannesburg and how cattle, which measure wealth to the natives, are destroying the country, as is the mining industry.

External Sources