full title 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
publisher Charles Scribner
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
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
rising action Kumalo travels to Johannesburg to search for his son
climax Absalom is arrested for the murder of Arthur Jarvis
falling action Absalom is sentenced to death; Jarvis works with Kumalo to improve conditions in the village; Absalom is hanged
themes Separation and reconciliation between fathers and sons; the impact of social injustice on individuals; crime and punishment; Christian love as a response to injustice
motifs Descriptions of nature; anger and repentance; repeated phrases
symbols The church, brightness, sunrise
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.