Cry The Beloved Country: Book Review Essay, Research Paper
Cry The Beloved Country: Book Review
Acc. Lit. & Comp.
Sept. 25, 1997
“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of it all.
Let him not love the earth to deeply. Let him not be too moved when the birds of
his land are singing, nor give to much of his heart to a mountain or a valley.
For fear will rob him of all if he lives too much. Yes cry, cry, the beloved
country” “Cry The Beloved Country” by Alan Paton. “Cry The Beloved Country” was
a magnificent work of art and my words alone would do it an injustice. Its pages
echo with the dirge of a battered country that has suffered far to much for far
The book takes you to South Africa, where the land itself is the essence of a
man. It as if the mountains, soaring high above the clouds, are the high moments
in life, and the valleys are those low and suffering times. Next, you will take
a journey to a place called Johannesburg. While reading the pages, begin to
envision Johannesburg being a polluted, very unkind, and rushed city. The
setting is more of a emotional setting than a physical setting. As I stated it
takes place in South Africa, 1946. This is a time where racial discrimination is
at an all time high. The black community of this land is trying to break free
from the white people, but having little success.? It is this so called racism
that is essential to the setting of the story. Without it, the book would not
have as much of an impact as it does.
The story begins, as many great stories have begun, with a solitary man taking a
long and dangerous journey to a distant land. The man is an Anglican Zulu priest,
Rev. Stephen Kumalo, and the journey is to the white-ran Johannesburg in 1946.
Like a weary prophet taking a biblical sojourn to Sodom, Kumalo is seeking out
lost members of his family who have left the townships for the lights of the big
city. He is looking for his sister Gertrude, who has become a prostitute: and
mostly, his son Absalom, who has disappeared into the darkness as surely as the
original Absalom of the Old Testament was lost to King David. Once he arrives,
the nave Kumalo is immediately robbed, and it isnt until he finds the enigmatic
but helpful Father Msimangu that he is able to begin his search, a search that
will change his life forever
He finds his sister, who is not expecting his arrivial, so, he tells her that
she and her child will go back with him. Next he wanted to find his son, but he
had no idea where to start, so Kumalo had told Msimangu that his brother lives
in Johannesburg. Msimangu immediately knows who he is, for Kumalos brother was a
big time politician who has no need for the church. After talking to his brother
Kumalo learns the location of his sons girlfriend, and goes to meet her. Upon
arriving he finds that his son has gotten this girl pregnant and has left her.
The girl knew where he was supposed to be going. Doing a little digging Kumalo
finds his son has killed a man. Ironically, Arthur Jarvis, killed by Absalom,
had dedicated his life to fighting apartheid.
Upon finding this Kumalo searches out for James Jarvis, white wealthy land-owner,
father of Arthur, to apologize and give him money for his sons wrong doing.
Jarvis then comes to a realization and decides to build Kumalo a church because
he now understands what Kumalos people were going through.
Rev. Stephen Kumalo was a man of great moral value. He was very firm in his
beliefs, yet very nave when it came to the “real world.” Kumalo could not
imagine why his son did what he did nor did he want to except the fact that it
was solely his sons fault for killing a man. The same goes for his sister, the
prostitute,? he thought that she did what she did because she enjoyed it, but in
all actuality she was a prostitute so her son could have a better life. Kumalo
was a very emotional man, who dealt with his problem to the best of his
knowledge. At the beginning you can tell he is a very caring individual for he
allowed a child to eat at his home when she had nothing to eat at hers. Kumalo
was a main element in the plot. The reason he was so important, through out all
the trials that he faced he never once buckled and he never once question why it
was him and not someone else.
Mr. James Jarvis was a to-proud land owner that suffered not only for the loss
of his son, but also the belated realization that his son spent all of his time
fighting against everything his he stood for. He was a raciest man, and had no
compassion for the black, until the end. Surprisingly he was very much like
Kumalo. They both had strong beliefs, were set in their ways, and neither one
understood their sons. Jarvis was a key element in the plot because he was
almost exactly alike Kumalo.
Kumalo and Jarvis both changed tremendously in this story. They both came to a
realization of the world around them. It was ironic that at the very end of the
story, when Kumalo went to the mountain to pray for his son (who was being
executed that day), that Jarvis said that he too would think about Absalom, and
that he would build a new church for Kumalo. It was like the realization that
Doug had in “Dandelion Wine” but much more complex.
I stated at the beginning that my words alone would do an injustice on this book.
I firmly believe that because this book was a life experience, that it is to
complex and to profound to put into words. It was a great book, Paton took a
tragedy and made it into a lesson on life that every individual can relate to. I
like the perspective he took on it, it was as if you became the character and
you felt the same emotions thathe does. I also like how he divided the book into
two different books. That event gave the reader a feeling a segregation which
was what the black people felt in that day and age.
The only thing that I did not like about the book was some of his wording was a
little confusing and I had to read it several times. Also he was a complex
writer. I thought that sometimes he took the “round about way” of getting to his
I think that the theme that Paton was trying to get people to see to forgive
people for something they have no control over. He shows this when Kumalo goes
to Jarvis house to apologize? for what his son did. Also, he shows the theme
when Jarvis tells Kumalo that he will build him a church. When he decides to
build the church it is his way of apologizing to all the black people for his
This books power comes not from explosions of raw anger or unexpected plot
twists, but from the tragic simplicity of its tale.