Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Church

The church in Ndotsheni is a simple, rough structure that represents a faith that is humble and unpretentious. With its leaky roof, the church seems to offer little shelter from the elements, but confirmations and other ceremonies occur there nonetheless—with nothing better available, the congregation must simply make do.

Although it is a house of God, the church is also closely linked to Kumalo. It is introduced to us almost as an extension of his house, and it is he who decides when services will be held and does its accounting. When Kumalo returns from Johannesburg, it becomes apparent that his young successor has had no success in making the church his own, and that both the building and its flock are fundamentally Kumalo’s. Jarvis’s offer to build a new church for the community is a symbol not only of his commitment to Ndotsheni but also of his new friendship with Kumalo.


Both Arthur and his son are notable for their “brightness,” a symbol of their eager intellects and generous hearts. Although they don’t shine physically, there is still something inherently brilliant about them that holds unquestionable promise. The novel’s mystical way of describing them is strongly reminiscent of the language typically used to describe angels, messengers of God who take human form but are somehow obviously more than human. The character of Arthur’s son seems to be especially developed as an almost divine agent. He rides around Ndotsheni on his horse, appearing periodically to raise Kumalo’s spirits, and his visits are occasionally followed by some generosity from his grandfather (an unexpected milk delivery, for example, or the arrival of Napoleon Letsitsi). Both Arthur and his son, then, help to bring good to their fellow men.