Cry, the Beloved Country Summary – Book I Chapters 1-4
Cry, the Beloved Country begins in the tribal village of Ndotsheni, in the province of Natal. Ndotsheni is an impoverished village in a valley, where the soil is so poor it can barely support the people who live there. All the young people have left, leaving only the old, and mothers with children.
A child brings a letter to the Reverend Stephen Kumalo at his home. The letter is from Theophilus Msimangu, at a Mission House in Johannesburg, and says that Kumalo’s sister Gertrude is sick and he should come quickly. Kumalo takes the money that he and his wife had wanted to reserve for schooling for Absalom their son. Like Gertrude, and Kumalo’s brother John, Absalom went to Johannesburg and never returned or wrote. Kumalo is also forced to take the money he was saving to buy his wife a stove.
Kumalo catches a train from Carisbrooke, a town at the top of the valley, for the long journey to Johannesburg. He is apprehensive about his trip, since he has never been to the great city before. His fellow-passengers are all black people, since the whites use cars for transportation.
After traveling overnight in the train, passing the mines on the way, he arrives in Johannesburg. He then has to make his way by bus to Sophiatown, where the Mission House is. A young man tricks him by offering to buy his ticket and then disappearing after he has taken Kumalo’s money. Another man befriends him, and when they reach Sophiatown, he takes Kumalo direct to the Mission House, where he meets Msimangu.
Book I Chapters 1-4 Analysis
The short first chapter, consisting of only four paragraphs, sets out one of the basic issues the novel will examine: the inequitable distribution of land in South Africa. The fertile richness of Carisbrooke, at the top of the valley, is contrasted with the barrenness of Ndotsheni. The white people have taken the best land, leaving the black population to manage as best they can. Since the soil in Ndotsheni is so poor, the young people have been forced to go to the industrial city of Johannesburg, where many of them find work in the mines. This leads to social disintegration, because the old tribal culture gets lost in the wilderness of the big city. This is what lies behind the apprehension that Kumalo feels as he travels to Johannesburg: “Deep down the fear of a man who lives in a world not made for him, whose own world is slipping away, dying, being destroyed, beyond any recall” (chapter 3).
Cry, the Beloved Country Summary – Book I Chapters 5-8
Kumalo has dinner at the Mission House with Msimangu and some other priests. The priests tell him about how white people in Johannesburg are afraid of black crime. Later, Kumalo tells Msimangu about Gertrude, who had gone with her small child to Johannesburg to look for her husband, who had gone to work in the mines. Msimangu tells Kumalo that his sister has become a prostitute and lives in Claremont, one of the worst areas in the city. Kumalo explains about his son, and Msimangu promises to help him find him. He also takes him to the home of Mrs. Lithebe, where he is given a room for his temporary stay.
Msimangu and Kumalo go to Claremont, where Kumalo finds his sister. He tells her he has come to take her and her child back. She consents, and Kumalo arranges for them to take a room in Mrs. Lithebe’s house. He is relieved and feels he is beginning to rebuild the tribe.
Kumalo buys some clothes for Gertrude and the boy. Then he and Msimangu begin the search for his son. First they visit John, Kumalo’s brother, who explains how different life is in Johannesburg than in Ndotsheni. He prides himself on making a decent living as a carpenter and being a man of influence in his community. He explains his political views to his brother, about the social inequalities between black and white, the poor pay in the mines while the white people get rich on their labor. He tells Stephen that his own son is friends with Absalom, and says they are both working in a factory in Doornfontstein. In Doornfontstein, Msimangu and Kumalo find that Absalom left the factory a year ago. They are given the name of a landlady, but she tells them Absalom is not there, and there are hints that he has got into some bad company. She gives them another address, c/o Mrs. Mkize in Alexandra.
The next morning, they plan to take a bus to Alexandra. But the black people are boycotting the buses because the fares are too high. Kumalo and Msimangu decide to walk the eleven miles, but when they have gone several miles a white man gives them a ride. They arrive in Alexandra, which is a mainly black, high crime area. Mrs. Mkize tells them that the two young Kumalos left a year ago. She seems fearful, and Kumalo knows that something is wrong. Msimangu goes back to the house alone, and the woman explains how the Kumalos used to bring stolen property back to the house. She does not know where they have gone, but directs them to a taxi-driver who was friends with them. The taxi-driver tells them that Absalom has gone to a place called Orlando, where he lives with the squatters in Shanty Town. Msimangu and Kumalo take the taxi back to Johannesburg.
Book I Chapters 5-8 Analysis
These chapters begin to explore the social problems that accompany the breakdown of the old black culture. Crime, alcoholism and prostitution flourish in the impoverished sections of Johannesburg. The different approaches to solving the problem of social breakdown and racial inequalities are also addressed. John Kumalo takes the political approach. He rejects the Church because it takes no concrete action, and he has managed to build up a powerful position for himself as an advocate of social justice for the black mineworkers. But Msimangu thinks Kumalo is corrupt. Like other black leaders who get some power, he simply uses it for selfish ends. Msimangu’s approach to the problem is more religious and focuses on individual change and the power of love. He says, “Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore he has power” (chapter 7). The only hope he sees for South Africa is when white and black men decide that they are interested not in power or money, but in the welfare of the country.
Throughout the novel, there are small incidents that show the situation in South Africa to be not entirely hopeless. In chapter 8, this is shown in the generosity of the white man who goes out of his way to give Msimangu and Kumalo a ride to Alexandra.
Cry, the Beloved Country Summary – Book I Chapters 9-12
Chapter 9 explores the problem of housing shortages for black people in Johannesburg, by weaving together snatches of conversation by unnamed blacks. It transpires that the people have taken the initiative themselves, inspired by black activists such as Dubula. They build up Shanty Town almost overnight, from whatever bits and pieces they can find-iron, sacks, poles. The newspapers cover the story, and the whites, ashamed of their neglect, come and put up some crude houses too. But none of the new residents of Shanty Town knows what they will do when it rains, or when winter comes.
In Shanty Town, Msimangu and Kumalo discover that a magistrate has sent Absalom to a reformatory nearby. They walk for an hour to the reformatory. A young white man tells them that Absalom did well at the reformatory, and he has great hopes for the boy’s future. Absalom left one month ago, mainly because there was a girl who was pregnant by him. The young man thought that Absalom was willing to marry the girl and look after her and the baby. He tells Kumalo that Absalom is now living in a nearby village called Pimville, where he has a job. He is reported to be doing well. The young white man takes them to Pimville, but there they hear bad news from Absalom’s girlfriend. He has been missing for several days, and she has no idea when or if he will return. Kumalo and Msimangu return to Orlando, disappointed.
They take the train back to Sophiatown. In the evening, the Evening Star newspaper reports that a respected white man, a young city engineer named Arthur Jarvis, has been shot dead in his home by black assailants. A black servant was also injured in the attack.
Chapter 12, like chapter 9, is a “choral” chapter, in which different white voices are presented as they discuss what must be done about the crime problem. Some want more police and heavier sentences for criminals. Others say the “natives” must be presented with worthy goals to strive for, otherwise crime will continue. Some advocate more education for blacks, or the building of recreation centers, or the enforcement of the pass-laws that regulate the movements of people. Others want South Africa to be divided into white and black areas. No one can agree on what course to take.
Meanwhile, the police are looking for Absalom. Kumalo is fearful of the reason why, which no one as yet knows.
Book I Chapters 9-12 Analysis
These chapters further dramatize the social problems of Johannesburg. As an industrial city it has attracted labor from outlying towns and villages, but there is not enough housing for them. Living conditions are poor, and wages in the mines are low. The building of Shanty Town is an act of desperation, because the black people know that the authorities will never build enough houses for them. It is also an example of black self-reliance. Organized by the activist Dumula, they take action to solve their own problems, and as Dumula well knows, the whites are then shamed into constructing more housing.
The second problem dramatized in these chapters is rising crime rates and the fear this engenders in the white population. But they cannot agree on how to reduce it. Most are limited by their own inability to think in terms other than race; they do not regard blacks as their equals, so cannot come up with any solution that will genuinely alleviate the problem. The exception to this is the man who is murdered. As later chapters will show, Arthur Jarvis was a man who managed to escape the prison of race and to think in an enlightened way about social problems. The fact of his murder, by a black man, is a crushing irony.
Cry, the Beloved Country Summary – Book I Chapters 13-17
Msimangu and Kumalo visit Enzenzelani, a place where white people assist blind black people. Msimangu preaches a moving sermon in the chapel there.
The next day, back at the Mission, Msimangu and the young white man from the reformatory inform Kumalo that Absalom has been arrested and charged with the murder of Arthur Jarvis. John Kumalo’s son and another black man have also been arrested, but it was Absalom who fired the fatal shot. Kumalo goes to tell his brother of what has happened, and they both go to the prison to visit their sons. Absalom admits he killed Jarvis, but said he fired the shot because he was frightened. He did not mean to kill the man. Under questioning from his father, Absalom says that the devil made him do it, but this does not satisfy his father. Absalom also says that he still wishes to marry the girl who is pregnant by him. After the meetings with their sons, John Kumalo tells his brother they must get a lawyer. He also reveals that the other two boys claim they were not present in the house when the murder took place. He says that no one will believe Absalom when he says they were there.
The young man from the reformatory comes to see Kumalo and persuades him to hire a lawyer. Kumalo then has a long talk with Father Vincent at the Mission House, who consoles him in his grief and fear. The next day Kumalo visits the pregnant sixteen-year-old girl. He tells her what Absalom has done, and asks her whether she wants to marry him. She says that she does, even though it will mean going from Johannesburg to live in the very quiet atmosphere of Ndotsheni, where she will bear her child.
Kumalo arranges with Mrs. Lithebe for the girl to live temporarily at her house in Sophiatown. The girl and Gertrude get on well and talk a lot, but Mrs. Lithebe does not like the girl’s careless laughter, which she thinks may hurt Kumalo, and she rebukes her. The girl becomes quiet and obedient.
Kumalo visits his son again, tells him he is hoping to arrange the marriage and find him a lawyer. They talk about the other boys involved in the crime, and Kumalo rebukes his son for choosing his friends so poorly.
Back at the Mission House, Kumalo meets Mr. Carmichael, the prominent white lawyer who has agreed to defend Absalom pro deo (without charging a fee).
Book I Chapters 13-17 Analysis
These chapters show the difficulty of reforming troubled youth. In Absalom’s case, the best attempts of the staff at the reformatory fail. Even though Absalom performed well there, he soon falls into bad company again when he is released. This shows how badly he needs the kind of structured life that the reformatory provided, and which is no longer available for young black men since the breakdown of the old tribal culture.
Kumalo learns more of how his brother has become corrupt in the city. John Kumalo uses all his cunning to save his own son, regardless of the truth of the matter. He shows no loyalty to his brother. Once again, this shows a breakdown of the old ways. In Johannesburg, it is each man for himself.
Although the picture is generally bleak, there are still some good things taking place. At Enzenzelani, for example, white people dedicate themselves to helping blind black people. And Mr. Carmichael, the lawyer, is prepared to defend a black man in a murder trial and not ask for any fee. This is typical of the book as a whole. It does not show all white people as heartless or as racists, so there is some hope for the future of South Africa.
Cry the Beloved Country Summary – Book II Chapters 18-21
On his prosperous farm in Carisbrooke, above the valley that leads down into Ndotsheni, James Jarvis surveys the plowing of the fields, and is gloomy because there is a drought, and there is still no sign of rain. He sits down and watches a police car making its way to the farmhouse. His wife directs the two policemen to where Jarvis is sitting. Captain Jaarsveld informs him of the death of his son, Arthur Jarvis. Jarvis has to tell his ailing wife the bad news. Then they make arrangements, with the help of the police, to fly to Johannesburg.
They are met at the airport by John Harrison, the brother of Mary, Arthur Jarvis’s wife. Harrison takes them to the home of his parents. They then drive to the Police Laboratories to identify the body. When they return to the house they find there are many messages of sympathy from a wide range of people, white and black. Harrison talks to Jarvis about all Arthur Jarvis’s many activities on behalf of racial justice. James Jarvis knew little of this, since he had not inquired into it. It was not something he thought about. Harrison then talks about how all the whites in Johannesburg are frightened by the extent of black crime. Later, in bed, Jarvis tells his wife he wishes he had known more of his son’s work.
The next day, Jarvis sits alone in his son’s office, looking at his son’s papers and his many hundreds of books. He reads a page from one of his son’s manuscripts, which sets out his moral approach to solving social problems. After reading, Jarvis is lost in thought for a while. Then he goes downstairs and walks out of the house, through the passage where the murder took place.
After the funeral, they all return to the Harrisons’ home. Harrison tells Jarvis about his tough views on crime. He believes in capital punishment and an increase in the number of police. He thinks the “natives” are getting out of hand, even starting up trade unions and threatening a strike at the mines. But the mines are vital to the country, and work there should not be disrupted, he believes.
After breakfast the next day, wanting to understand his son’s views better, Jarvis reads his son’s manuscript on black crime. Arthur Jarvis argued that because it perpetuated racial inequality and justified it on religious grounds, South African society was not Christian. Jarvis is moved by what he reads.
Book II Chapters 18-21 Analysis
Whereas Book I focused on Kumalo and his search for his son, Book II focuses on John Jarvis. The fact that the first two paragraphs of Book II are almost identical to those of Book I brings out the irony of the fact that Kumalo and Jarvis come from exactly the same region in Natal-and yet there is so much that separates them, in terms of race, social status, and economics.
These chapters also contain a lot of social analysis and commentary. On the conservative side, English-speaking whites like Harrison firmly believe that the “natives” are well treated by the whites. He thinks they earn good wages at the mines and also have decent housing. Without the mines, he believes that thousands of blacks would die of starvation. He thinks of himself as a fair-minded man, and says he has nothing against the blacks.
James Jarvis is also aware of social problems, and like Harrison, he takes a conservative view, although these are not issues he has thought deeply about. He knows the barrenness of the valley below his farm, but he is also aware that the people who live there know nothing about farming. He suspects that if they were given more land, they would probably not make good use of it. And if they did, who then would work on the white man’s farms, since they depend on black labor?
In contrast to this is the voice of Arthur Jarvis, which speaks through his manuscripts, with his searing call for racial justice and his exposure of the moral bankruptcy of white rule over the blacks who make up the vast majority in the country.
The evolution of Jarvis’s views, stimulated by the tragic death of his son, will now become the focus of this part of the novel.
Cry the Beloved Country Summary – Book II Chapters 22-25
In the courtroom, the trial begins. Absalom tries to plead guilty to culpable homicide, since he claims he did not intend to kill. But the judge will not allow this, since the charge against Absalom is murder. Absalom then pleads not guilty, as do his two associates.
Under examination by the prosecutor, Absalom tells the story of what happened inside the house. He says that Johannes Pafuri, one of the defendants, struck a black servant over the head with an iron bar. Then a white man came into the passage. Absalom was frightened, and fired the revolver he was carrying. The judge then asks some questions of his own, particularly how Absalom came to be in possession of a revolver. The judge’s questions show that he is skeptical about Absalom’s insistence that he took the revolver only to frighten, not to kill. The prosecutor then resumes his questions. Absalom insists that the other two defendants are lying when they say he made up the story about their involvement when he met them by chance afterwards. He also testifies that when the police came for him, he confessed immediately, and told them where he had hidden the revolver. The court adjourns.
Meanwhile, in the wider South African world, gold has been discovered at Odendaalsrust in the Orange Free State. There is great excitement about this in Johannesburg, and people think South Africa is going to be rich again. The chapter is written mostly as a satire of the typical English-speaking white South African businessman in Johannesburg who thinks that whatever is good for business must by definition be good for everyone. The last two paragraphs, however, refute that view, making it plain that there needs to be a more equitable distribution of wealth among the people.
Jarvis returns to the house where his son was murdered, and reads another of the dead man’s essays in which he describes how he plans to devote himself to South Africa, doing what is right, regardless of consequences. Once again, Jarvis is moved by what he reads.
Jarvis and his wife spend a day with their niece, Barbara Smith, in Springs. While the women are in town, Stephen Kumalo knocks at the door. Jarvis does not know who he is, only that he is a parson. Kumalo is fulfilling a request made to him by a man named Sibeko of Ndotsheni, to find out what has happened to his daughter, whom he has not heard from for a year. She went to work for the Smith family. Jarvis summons one of the servants, but he says the girl left before he came. Jarvis notices that the parson appears to be afraid of him, and inquires about it. Kumalo tells him that he is the father of the man who killed his, Jarvis’s, son. Jarvis replies that he is not angry with him. Kumalo tells Jarvis that he feels deep sorrow for him. Barbara Smith then returns and says she had to send the girl away because she was brewing liquor in her room. She does not know where the girl is now. Kumalo leaves. There is a quiet warmth between him and Jarvis.
Book II Chapters 22-25 Analysis
In these chapters, Paton draws on a historical event in South Africa, the discovery of gold deposits on a farm in the hamlet of Odendaalsrust in April, 1946. This discovery made front-page news in newspapers around the world. Ten miles south of Odendaalsrust, a new town called Welkom sprang up, around which the huge new gold mines were situated. To this day, gold mining is the mainstay of the local economy. Paton also mentions the name Sir Earnest Oppenheimer, describing him as “one of the great men of the mines.”
ppenheimer (1880-1957), who was a German-born financier and chairman of the Anglo American Corporation at the time of the gold discovery, held enlightened views. His instructions for the building of Welkom were that it should be a town its inhabitants could be proud of, rather than a place designed only to exploit the labor of the black people.
These chapters also prepare the way for the growth in the character of Jarvis, and for the hopeful conclusion of the novel. Jarvis’s meeting with Kumalo establishes sympathy between the two men because of their shared grief.
Cry the Beloved Country Summary – Book II Chapters 26-29
John Kumalo addresses a big crowd in a square in Johannesburg. It is a political speech, calling for the wealth from the gold mines to be shared more equally with the workers who produce it. He has the gift of oratory, and rouses the crowd. Kumalo knows his own power, but he is afraid of it. He does not want to go to jail and lose all his possessions and the applause of the crowd. So he goes so far and no further in his speeches. He excites the crowd and then pulls back, not wanting to provoke the watching police into taking action.
The strike for which Kumalo is calling comes and goes. At one mine, the police were called, and they drove the black miners down the mine. Three black miners were killed in the fighting.
Mrs. Lithebe reproaches Gertrude for associating with people who laugh carelessly. Gertrude says she will be glad to be gone from Johannesburg, a place that has brought her only trouble.
The evening newspaper reports another incident in which a white man is killed in his home by a black person. Mrs. Lithebe and Gertrude are shocked and fear that the news may adversely affect Absalom’s fate in his trial. They hide the newspaper from Kumalo. Later, Gertrude tells Mrs. Lithebe that she desires to become a nun.
The judge gives his summary of the case. He states that the presence of Johannes Pafuri and Matthew Kumalo at the scene of the crime has not been proved. They are therefore found not guilty and released. Absalom, however, is found guilty of murder without any mitigating factors. He is sentenced to death by hanging.
In the prison, Father Vincent performs a marriage ceremony for Absalom and his girlfriend, in the presence of Absalom’s father. Kumalo and Absalom are then left alone, and Kumalo promises to care for the baby as if it were his own. Absalom says he has four pounds in a Post Office book, which he wants to be used for the child. He also asks for a parcel of his belongings to be sold and the proceeds given to help with his son’s upbringing. Absalom is calm until the city of Pretoria is mentioned. That is the capital city of South Africa, and it is where the hanging will take place. He breaks down and cries. Stephen tries to comfort him, but soon the warder comes and tells him it is time to go.
Kumalo, who is returning home the next day, visits his brother to say goodbye. John says that he plans to bring his son back to his carpenter’s shop to live with him. Stephen engages him in a discussion about his political views. He wonders where John’s political activism is taking him. He fears his brother may be arrested, and he says he has heard that a man has been sent to the shop to pose as a friend but really to spy on him. He knows this is a lie but he wants to hurt his brother. After Stephen makes an allusion to the two false friends that his son had (one of whom was John’s son), John becomes enraged and forces Stephen out of the shop.
Jarvis leaves the Harrisons, presenting John Harrison with a check for a thousand pounds for his boys’ club. He tells John to do with the money whatever he and Arthur had wanted to do. John is stunned by Jarvis’s unexpected generosity.
That evening, Msimangu hosts a going-away party at Mrs. Lithebe’s house. Msimangu announces that he intends to retire from the world and enter a monastic community. He presents Kumalo with a Post Office book that contains his savings. He has transferred it to Kumalo’s name. Kumalo weeps at the generosity of his friend. Kumalo later discovers that there are over thirty-three pounds in the savings account, which is quite a large sum.
The next morning, he rises to begin the long journey. But he finds that Gertrude has gone. It appears that she has gone back to her former life, although this is never established beyond doubt.
Book II Chapters 26-29 Analysis
These chapters contain much that is dark and ominous. Absalom is condemned to death, and the trial is set against a background of rising crime and labor unrest.
There is a factual basis for the account of the miners’ strike. A miner’s strike did take place in 1946. The black mineworkers’ had every reason to be dissatisfied with their lot. At the time, white miners wages were almost thirteen times higher than wages paid to black miners. After the strike, the South African Chamber of Mines redoubled its efforts to prevent black miners from forming trade unions.
But the narrator clearly suggests that political action through strikes is not the way to social progress. The strike appears to accomplish little, and its great advocate, John Kuala, is shown to be corrupt, more in love with his own power to move a crowd than in selflessly pursuing his cause.
However, the complacent whites fail to learn any lessons from the strike, as the satirical tone at the end of chapter 26 suggests. They foolishly think that just because the strike is over, and things seem to have quietened down, all will be well.
The gloom of these chapters is relieved by the great goodness and generosity of Msimangu, and the change that is beginning in James Jarvis.
Cry the Beloved Country Summary – Book III Chapters 30-33
Kumalo returns to his home in Ndotsheni, with Gertrude’s son and Absalom’s wife. He is greeted warmly by the villagers, who tell him about the drought. It transpires that they have heard about the fate of his son. Kumalo goes to his church, where some men and women are singing a hymn of thanksgiving, and prays. Then he has a long talk about life and suffering with one of his friends before returning home to his wife.
Kumalo prays for the restoration of Ndotsheni, and decides that there must be some action. He decides to consult the chief and the headmaster of the school. He visits the chief first. He tells him that they should try to keep more of their people in the valley rather than see them all go off to Johannesburg. He proposes that the children should be taught in school how to care for the land. The chief agrees with these goals and says that inspectors have been teaching such things in the schools for years. Kumalo replies that this has done no good. There is no grass or water, cattle are dying and there is no milk. Children are dying. The chief knows Kumalo is right but he has nothing practical to offer other than to say he will speak to the magistrate.
Kumalo then goes to see the headmaster. The headmaster is helpful, saying that in the schools they are trying to relate the life of the child to the life of the community. But he has nothing practical to offer.
Kumalo goes to the church to work, and is surprised to see a young white boy ride up on a horse. The boy is friendly, and Kumalo takes him inside his house, which is close to the church. He knows that the boy is James Jarvis’s grandson. The boy uses the chance to practice using Zulu words, since he is learning the language. He also learns that there is no milk in the village, and that children are dying.
That night, a friend arrives at the Kumalo house. He brings milk in a cart for the small children. The milk has been sent by Jarvis, who has heard from his grandson about the dire situation in the village.
Kumalo is informed in a letter from Absalom’s lawyer that there will be no reprieve for Absalom. He will be hanged in Pretoria on the fifteenth of the month. Kumalo also receives a letter from Absalom in which he accepts his fate.
Kumalo goes outside and sees a number of white men, including Jarvis, the magistrate and the chief, not too far from the church. The white men have brought sticks and flags. Jarvis appears to be in charge as the sticks and flags are placed in the ground.
As the men disperse, a storm is brewing. Jarvis takes refuge in the church, with Kumalo. They sit together in silence as the rain comes down. The roof leaks in many places. Jarvis sympathizes with Kumalo over the coming execution.
That night the villagers come out and examine the sticks. No one knows what they are for. Later, rumors circulate that some kind of dam is to be built.
The small boy comes to visit Kumalo again. He wants to practice his Zulu once more. After the small boy leaves, a young black man, Mr. Letsitsi, arrives outside the church. He is the agricultural demonstrator, sent by Jarvis to teach farming to the people of Ndotsheni. He confirms that there will be a dam, so that the cattle will always have water to drink and the land will always be irrigated. The small boy returns to say goodbye; he is about to return to school in Johannesburg.
Book III Chapters 30-33 Analysis
Book III shows the possibility of reconciliation between the races and the emergence of a more just society. Part of this progress is accomplished at an individual level, between Kumalo, who has every reason to fear Jarvis, and Jarvis, who has every reason to shun Kumalo. But instead they develop respect for each other. Jarvis understands the suffering that Kumalo must be experiencing, and he has no anger towards him.
Although Kumalo is a religious man and does not put his faith in political action, he has learned from his time in Johannesburg that some action has to be taken to improve social conditions. He believes that people must be prepared to help themselves. So far, this has not happened in Ndotsheni. Despite their aspirations, neither the chief nor the headmaster have accomplished anything for their people. The chief has been satisfied with vague assurances, and the headmaster deals only in theories. Kumalo would have been at a loss to know what to do had it not been for the timely intervention of James Jarvis, which followed the chance meeting between Kumalo and Jarvis’s grandson, the son of the murdered Arthur Jarvis. The boy is a symbol of hope. He knows nothing of racial prejudice. He treats Kumalo with the same respect and friendliness that he would show to a white man.
Cry the Beloved Country Summary – Book III Chapters 34-36
Kumalo is brought news that Jarvis’s wife has died. Kumalo writes a letter of sympathy on behalf of everyone in the church and has a boy deliver it to Jarvis’s house.
A bishop arrives and performs a confirmation ceremony for the children in the church. The bishop later advises Kumalo to leave Ndotsheni because the father of the man Absalom murdered is his neighbor. He should go someplace where no one knows what happened. The bishop also wants to spare Kumalo the trouble and anxiety of rebuilding the church, which is in a state of disrepair.
At that moment, a letter is delivered from Jarvis, thanking Kumalo for his message of sympathy, and saying that it was his wife’s last wish that a new church should be built in Ndotsheni. This letter convinces the bishop that Kumalo should stay in Ndotsheni.
After the bishop departs, some of the villagers make a wreath to send to the Jarvis family. One man goes all the way to Carisbrooke to get the white arum lilies that the white people use on such occasions.
As the days go by, Letsitsi teaches the people how to farm. The dam is under construction, and there is a new spirit and new life in the village. There is hope once more.
The evening before the execution of Absalom, Kumalo sets out for the mountain high above Carisbrooke. On the way there, he encounters Jarvis, who says he will shortly be moving to Johannesburg to live with his daughter. Kumalo explains that he is on his way up the mountain. Jarvis says he understands, and speaks with a compassion that makes Kumalo weep. Jarvis also says that he intends to continue financing the project to revitalize Ndotsheni.
Kumalo climbs the mountain and keeps a vigil until dawn, sleeping fitfully. He thinks deeply about the events of the last few months and what he has learned from them. At four in the morning he wakes and prays. Then he watches the dawn come, for Absalom is to be executed at dawn.
Book III Chapters 34-36 Analysis
Although the novel ends with the tragedy of the Kumalo family, as Stephen keeps vigil for his condemned son, the dominant tone of these chapters is of hope, compassion and reconciliation between the races. Jarvis keeps faith with his support for the village, and the villagers go out of their way to express their sympathy for the Jarvis family after the death of Margaret Jarvis. Social change is happening because individuals have changed, and they have changed because they have reached out and learned to understand one another.