Cry, the Beloved Country
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Msimangu says that the main problem facing the native population of South Africa is that nothing has been built to replace the broken moral and social framework of the tribes. John Kumalo thinks the main trouble is economic inequality. Based on the evidence in the novel, which of these men is right?
2. What is the role of Christianity—a European religion embraced by most of the natives, including Kumalo—in Cry, the Beloved Country? Why has it not succeeded in improving the moral framework of the tribal system?
3. What role does the landscape play in the novel? What does the valley surrounding Ndotsheni seem to represent?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. One of the novel’s goals seems to be to offer a balanced portrayal of both white and black perspectives without condemning either side. Does the novel succeed in this goal? Is it too judgmental? Does it oversimplify any issues?
2. In some ways, Cry, the Beloved Country seems to be a novel designed to convince South African society of the value of equality and social justice. What methods does it use to do so? Are some more effective than others?
3. Both Kumalo and Jarvis undergo revelations during the novel. Jarvis finally sees the injustice of South African society, and Kumalo realizes the consequences of losing the old tribal customs. Compare the two men’s journeys over the course of the novel. In what ways are they alike? In what ways do they differ?
4. What role do women play in the novel? How do the injustices they face affect them? Do they suffer from injustices that the men do not?
5. Cry, the Beloved Country contrasts the rural and urban ways of life. How do the world of Johannesburg and the world of Ndotsheni differ? Does one place seem to be more just than the other? Does one place seem more likely to produce a just South Africa?
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