full title  Cry, the Beloved Country

author  Alan Paton

type of work  Novel

genre  Father’s quest for his son; courtroom drama; social criticism

language  English

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

tense  Past

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.