Literapedia Book Notes for

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton


  • Rev. Stephen Kumalo (ch 2)—a black, Anglican parson; he goes to Johannesburg to look for his lost son.
  • Mrs. Kumalo (ch 2)—Stephen’s wife; she stays in Ndotsheni when Stephen leaves for Johannesburg.
  • Stephen’s companion (ch 3)—Stephen’s friend, he asks Stephen to look for Sibeko’s daughter.
  • Mr. Mafolo (ch 4)—he helps Stephen find the Mission House in Sophiatown.
  • Rev. Theophilus Msimangu (ch 4)—he is the priest in Johannesburg who wrote to Stephen and helps him in his search for his son.
  • Mrs. Lithebe (ch 5)—a devout churchgoer, she provides lodging to Stephen when he is in Johannesburg.
  • Gertrude (ch 6)—Stephen’s sister, she went to Johannesburg to look for her husband and became a prostitute and liquor seller.
  • Gertrude’s son (ch 6)—a young child.
  • John Kumalo (ch 7)—Stephen’s brother, he has abandoned the church and become a politician in Johannesburg. He is known as the voice of the black movement.
  • Dubula (ch 8)—a black activist, he is known as the heart of the black movement.
  • Tomlinson (ch 8)—a black activist, he is known as the brains of the black movement.
  • Reformatory director (ch 10)—a young, white man, he tried to help Absalom.
  • Absalom’s fiancée (ch 10)—a young girl who is pregnant with Absalom’s child.
  • Arthur Jarvis (ch 11)—a white engineer who grew up near Ndotsheni. He is murdered while working for the relief of the native Africans.
  • Father Vincent (ch 14)—the white priest who runs the Mission House.
  • Absalom Kumalo (ch 14)—Stephen’s son, who ran away to Johannesburg.
  • Mr. Carmichael (ch 17)—a white lawyer, he takes Absalom’s case.
  • James Jarvis (ch 18)—Arthur’s father who owns High Place, a farm in a valley above Ndotsheni.
  • Margaret Jarvis (ch 18)—Arthur’s mother.
  • Mary Jarvis (ch 19)—Arthur’s wife.
  • John Harrison (ch 19)—Mary’s brother, so Arthur’s brother-in-law; a great admirer of his social work.
  • Mr. Harrison (ch 19)—Arthur’s father-in-law, he doesn’t agree with Arthur’s opinions, but he does respect them.
  • Matthew Kumalo (ch 22)—John’s son, he is with Absalom when Arthur is murdered.
  • Johannes Pafuri (ch 22)—he plans the crime and strikes the servant in Arthur’s house.
  • Baby Mkize (ch 22)—a “friend” of Absalom’s, it is in her house that the crime is planned.
  • Barbara Smith (ch 25)—Margaret Jarvis’s niece, she employed Sibeko’s daughter but dismissed her for being in trouble with the law.
  • The Chief (ch 31)—The leader of the tribe that the people of Ndotsheni belong to.
  • The Headmaster (ch 31)—The head of the school in Ndotsheni.
  • The son of Arthur (ch 31)—After his father’s death, he stays for a while with his grandfather James; he becomes friends with Stephen, who calls him inkosana.
  • The agricultural Demonstrator (ch 33)—A young native man who is sent by James Jarvis to improve the farming practices of the people of Ndotsheni.
  • The Bishop (ch 34)—Stephen’s superior in the church.

Chapter Summaries

  1. The “lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills” is described, along with the current plight of the African tribe.
  2. Stephen receives a letter from a priest in Johannesburg saying that his sister is in trouble.
  3. Stephen boards the train to Johannesburg and succumbs to a “little vanity.”
  4. After arriving in Johannesburg, Stephen is cheated out of some of his money. He is eventually taken to the Mission House in Sophiatown.
  5. Stephen eats with the other priests in the Mission House. Msimangu tells Stephen of his son and other relatives. Stephen spends the night at the house of Mrs. Lithebe.
  6. Msimangu takes Stephen to Claremont, where Stephen convinces his sister Gertrude that she and her son should return to the village.
  7. Msimangu takes Stephen to see his brother John, who denounces the old ways of the village. He suggests that Absalom may be with his son. Stephen and Msimangu find a woman who gives them an address in Alexandria.
  8. Convinced by Dubula not to break the bus boycott, Stephen and Misimangu are given a ride to Alexandria. There they find that Absalom left for a Shanty Town in Orlando.
  9. The plight of the black Africans living in a Shanty Town is described.
  10. Stephen and Msimangu go to the Shanty Town in Orlando and find that Absalom has been in a nearby reformatory. The young, white man who runs the reformatory takes them to Absalom’s pregnant fiancée, who hasn’t seen or heard from Absalom in days.
  11. After returning to the Mission House, Stephen learns of the death of Arthur Jarvis.
  12. The thoughts and feelings of the white Africans is described. Msimangu and Stephen learn that the police are seeking Absalom, and they retrace their steps all of the way to Absalom’s fiancée.
  13. Msimangu takes Stephen to Ezenzeleni, a refuge for blind, black Africans. There Stephen spends the morning in contemplation and then attends a service led by Msimangu.
  14. The reformatory director takes Stephen and John to the prison, where Stephen talks to Absalom. Absalom admits to the murder, and John suggests to Stephen that his son will not admit guilt in the crime.
  15. The reformatory director apologizes to Stephen and urges him to find a lawyer for Absalom. Stephen speaks with Father Vincent, who encourages him.
  16. Stephen speaks with his son’s fiancée. She says that she wishes to marry Absalom and to live as Stephen’s daughter in Ndotsheni.
  17. Absalom’s fiancée comes to Mrs. Lithebe’s house to live. Stephen meets with Absalom, who has learned that his friends will deny being part of the crime. Later Stephen meets with the lawyer Mr. Carmichael.
  18. The chapter begins with another description of the “lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills.” James Jarvis learns of the death of his son Arthur.
  19. James and Margaret Jarvis go to Johannesburg and learn of their son’s work from John Harrison and Mr. Harrison.
  20. James Jarvis sits in his son’s study, reads the letters his son has received from different groups of people, reads part of a manuscript by his son, and reads Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”
  21. Arthur’s funeral is held. James Jarvis speaks with Mr. Harrison and John about the problem with the mines. The next morning James Jarvis reads a copy of his son’s manuscript on native crime.
  22. The trial for the murder of Arthur Jarvis is held. Absalom testifies truthfully.
  23. Gold is discovered in one of the mines, and the discussion it generates is described.
  24. James Jarvis returns to his son’s study and reads his son’s “Private Essay on the Evolution of a South African.”
  25. James and Margaret visit Barbara Smith. Stephen visits the house, and accidentally meets James Jarvis.
  26. John Kumalo speaks at a rally that is attended by both Stephen and James Jarvis. Afterwards the miners attempt a strike, which is soon broken.
  27. Mrs. Lithebe rebukes Gertrude, who subsequently decides to make a drastically new start in life.
  28. The judge in Absalom’s trial pronounces his verdict and the sentence.
  29. Stephen visits Absalom for the last time, and Absalom is married. Stephen visits his brother John and hurts him with a lie. At the going-away party at Mrs. Lithebe’s, Msimangu gives Stephen a gift.
  30. Stephen, Gertrude’s son, and Absalom’s wife arrive in Ndotsheni, where they are welcomed. Stephen shares with his companion about what happened in Johannesburg.
  31. Stephen visits both the chief and the headmaster, but no progress is made. Arthur’s son visits Stephen, and soon afterwards milk is delivered to the children in the village.
  32. Word comes to Stephen that Absalom will not receive mercy. James Jarvis and others come to the town to lay markers. Jarvis and Stephen are caught in the church during a thunderstorm, and Jarvis asks about Absalom.
  33. Arthur’s son again visits Stephen. The young agricultural demonstrator arrives in Ndotsheni and explains the plan for the dam.
  34. The town receives word of the death of James Jarvis’s wife, and Stephen sends a note. The Bishop comes to Ndotsheni to confirm the youth, and he nearly removes Stephen from his position.
  35. The farming practices in Ndotsheni are reformed by the young demonstrator. The young demonstrator and Stephen discuss Africa.
  36. On the night before Absalom is to be executed, Stephen travels up into the hills to keep a vigil. On the way he meets James Jarvis, who tells him he is moving to Johannesburg but will not abandon his work in Ndotsheni. As the dawn comes, Stephen prays for his son and for Africa.

Book Note Creator

Hal Waller, instructor