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Free Study Guide-Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton-Free Book Notes
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The novel opens in Ndotsheni, a small village in the sum- scorched valley of Umzimkulu. It is a primitive village with hungry children and forlorn old men. The soil is badly scorched and the maize hardly reaches the height of a man. From the interiors of South Africa, the novel penetrates into Johannesburg city, which his at the hub of the wheel. Johannesburg is a vibrant place, frothing with gold and with people who are drawn to the light. The flip side of the city is dark and murky. It is a city ruined by injustice, poverty, lawlessness and the sequential crime. The large part of the novel is set in the convoluted and fear-ridden cosmos of Johannesburg. In the final phase of the novel, there is a return to Ndotsheni and the novel heads for a quiet optimistic end.


Major Characters

Stephen Kumalo

A humble, devout village priest, who is in search of his absconding son. In the process of the search, he undergoes great tribulations and turns out to be a more mature and humble man. He spends the remainder of his life, trying to restore his dilapidated village and helping the suffering natives.

Absalom Kumalo

Stephen Kumaloís son, who is adrift in the white manís world and kills a man because he is scared. Absalom has destroyed his own life and has also wretched the life of a young girl, whom he has impregnated and then, deserted.

Gertrude Kumalo

Another example, of a life forfeited by the city. The ruthless conditions of Johannesburg have forced her into prostitution. She is given a chance to mend her life, but it is too late.

John Kumalo

Stephen Kumaloís brother, an ordinary carpenter transformed into a fiery spokesman for the new movement in Johannesburg. He has rejected the church and denies the substance of the tribal unit his blustery speeches have earned him the little of Ďa bullí, but he is a man corrupted by power and therefore, insincere to the very cause he speaks vehemently for.


A parish priest in the Mission House, Johannesburg. He is completely selfless and assists Kumalo in finding his family. He is the spokesperson for the author to air his views on the racial and social problems of South Africa. He is also a great inspiration for Stephen Kumalo.

Arthur Jarvis

The son of a wealthy landowner, who is slain by Absalom. He does not appear in the novel, but his views are of utmost importance because they reveal the root cause of native crime and black suffering.

James Jarvis

The father of Arthur Jarvis, who undergoes the education of the heart and realizes the white mansí responsibility in setting the wrong right.

Minor Characters

Mrs. Kumalo

A prototype of the suffering black woman.

Absalom's young wife

A nondescript girl, who is impregnated by Absalom and then deserted.

Father Vincent

The rosy checked, young priest from England, who helps Stephen Kumalo in his difficult times.

Mrs. Lithebe

A kind, motherly black woman, who gives shelter to Kumalo and his family in Johannesburg.

The Harrisons

The elder Harrison is a conservative person who believes that the blacks should be kept in their place. His son, John represents the new liberal viewpoint, which argues in favor of the blacks.

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