''Cry, the Beloved Country'' is a novel by Alan Paton, published in 1948. American publisher Bennett Cerf remarked at that year's meeting of the American Booksellers Association that there had been "only three novels published since the first of the year that were worth reading… ''Cry, The Beloved Country'', ''The Ides of March'', and ''The Naked and the Dead''.""Reader's Digest: Gossip, news: J. F. Albright reports on A.B.A. meeting," ''The Dallas Morning News'', 30 May 1948, p. 6. Two cinema adaptations of the book have been made, the first in 1951 and the second in 1995. The novel was also adapted as a musical called ''Lost in the Stars'' (1949), with a book by the American writer Maxwell Anderson and music composed by the German emigre Kurt Weill.

Plot summary

In the quaint village of Ndotsheni, in Kwa-Zulu, South Africa, Stephen Kumalo, a Reverend there receives an urgent letter from Msimangu, a reverend in Johannesburg, telling him to quickly and hastily come to the city. He is needed there, the letter says his sister Gertrude, is ill. Kumalo takes the long trip to the city hoping to find and help his long lost sister Gertrude as well as his missing son. In Johannesburg, Kumalo is warmly welcomed by Msimangu, the priest who sent him the letter, and given comfortable lodging by Mrs. Lithebe, a Christian woman who feels that helping others is her duty. Kumalo is saddened to hear that his beloved little sister is now a prostitute, and that she has been in prison more than once. The next day, Kumalo goes to find his sister, she is afraid to be seen by her brother in this way. And after expressing his sadness and the shame which she has brought upon them they pray for her forgiveness and he is able to persuade her to come back to Ndotsheni with her young son. A more difficult quest follows, when Kumalo and Msimangu begin searching the labyrinthine metropolis of Johannesburg for Absalom. They visit Kumalo's brother, John. His brother tells them to go to a factory where his son and Absalom once worked together. Going to the factory, he learns that Absalom has not been there in 12 month. As the search gets more and more complicated, Kumalo hears that his son was sent to a reformatory, where he did very well. The man there tells him that he had been released a month ago, because he had gotten a young Zulu girl pregnant. This man brings them to her and she tells them that he has been missing for four days and that he has not come back. Around this time, the newspapers announce that Arthur Jarvis, a man who fights for racial equality was murdered in his home, they presume them to be Native Africans. Kumalo and Msimangu hear that Absalom was arrested for the murder of Arthur Jarvis, they meet him at the prison, Absalom confesses to having shot Arthur and tells him that John's son, his cousin, Matthew, was there with him, as well as another. John, hires a lawyer for his own son's defense, even though this will worsen Absalom’s case, as he has no Alibi. Kumalo is now faced with how his brother has become a selfish man. To save his own son, he will allow his nephew to take the complete fall for the crime. With the help of friends, Kumalo gets a lawyer who takes the case for no fee. When Kumalo tells Absalom's pregnant girlfriend that Absalom is in prison. She is sad to hear this news, he then asks if she wishes to still marry his son, she tells him that she does. In part 2, in the grass covered hills above Ndotsheni, Arthur Jarvis' father, James Jarvis, watches the workers tend his fields, which are situated in the valley. He is wishing for rain, for there has been no rain and the ground is hard. The local police captain visits him there, bringing him news of his son's murder, he and his wife quickly leave for Johannesburg. While grieving his sons death, Jarvis finds himself reading his son's articles and speeches on social inequality. He begins to learn of things he had not fully understood about his son and begins to feel ashamed and has a change of heart towards Native Africans. James and Kumalo meet for the first time, when Kumalo was doing a favor for a friend, and after Kumalo has recovered from his initial shock of seeing Jarvis, he tells Jarvis that it was his son who killed Arthur and that he is sorry. Jarvis tells him not to fear, for he understands what he hadn't before. Absaloms trial takes place shortly after and it ends with the judge sentencing Absalom to a hanging, the two other men walk free. Absolam and his girlfriend marry in the prison and Absolam tells his father how he is scared and fears the hanging. Kumalo tells him to have courage. Absalom sobbed greatly and clung to his father, till he was removed from the room. A day or two later, Kumalo rouses his family to bring them back to Ndotsheni, only to find that Gertrude is gone. He knows he can not go after her as she has made up her mind to stay. She has made her decision. Back home in the village James Jarvis becomes iterested in helping the village. He wants to be involved and help the village thrive again. He even offers to build the congregation a new church as the current one is old and leaking. On the evening before his son's execution, Kumalo goes into the mountains. On the way, he meets Jarvis, and the two men speak of many things. When Kumalo is alone, he weeps for his son’s death and prays as the sun rises.


*Stephen Kumalo: A 60-year-old Zulu priest, the father of Absalom, who attempts to find his family in Johannesburg, and later to reconstruct the disintegrating state of his village. Book three focuses heavily on his relationship with James Jarvis. *Theophilus Msimangu: A priest from Johannesburg who helps Kumalo find his son Absalom and his sister Gertrude. *John Kumalo: Stephen's brother, who denies the tribal validity and becomes a spokesman for the new racial movement in the city; a former carpenter. *Absalom Kumalo: Stephen's son who left home to look for Stephen's sister Gertrude, and who murders Arthur Jarvis. *Gertrude Kumalo: The young sister of Stephen who becomes a prostitute in Johannesburg and leads a dissolute life. *James Jarvis: A wealthy landowner whose son, Arthur, is murdered. He comes to the realization of the guilt of white residents in such crimes and forgives the Kumalos. *Arthur Jarvis: Murdered by Absalom Kumalo, he is the son of James Jarvis. He had many liberal racial views that are highly significant and influential. *Dubula: A big man who was the "heart" of anything and everything Arthur Jarvis did, including wanting peace between the races. *Mr. Carmichael: Absalom's lawyer; he takes his case ''pro deo'' (for God) in this case meaning for free. *Father Vincent: A priest from England who helps Stephen in his troubles. *Mrs. Lithebe: A native housewife in whose house Stephen stays while in Johannesburg. *The Harrisons: A father and son who represent two opposing views concerning the racial problem. The father, who is Arthur's father-in-law, represents the traditional view, while the son represents the more liberal view. *The Girl bsalom's wife'': A teenage girl, approximately 16 years old, impregnated by Absalom, whom she later marries. She tells Kumalo that Absalom will be her third husband and that her father had abandoned her family when she was quite young. Given her young age it is unclear if any of these marriages were wholly consensual.

Main themes

''Cry, the Beloved Country'' is a social protest against the structures of the society that would later give rise to apartheid. Paton attempts to create an unbiased and objective view of the dichotomies it entails: he depicts whites as affected by "native crime" while blacks suffer from social instability and moral issues due to the breakdown of the tribal system. It shows many of the problems with South Africa such as the degrading of the land reserved for the natives, which is sometimes considered to be the main theme, the disintegration of the tribal community, native crime, and the flight to urban areas. Another prevalent theme in ''Cry, the Beloved Country'' is the detrimental effects of fear on the characters and society of South Africa as indicated in the following quotation from the narrator in Chapter 12: Paton makes frequent use of literary and linguistic devices such as microcosms, intercalary chapters and dashes instead of quotation marks for dialogue to indicate the start of speech.

Allusions/references to other works

The novel is filled with Biblical references and allusions. The most evident are the names Paton gives to the characters. Absalom, the son of Stephen Kumalo, is named for the son of King David, who rose against his father in rebellion. Also, in the New Testament Book of Acts, Stephen was a martyr who underwent death by stoning rather than stop declaring the things he believed. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are written to Theophilus, which is Greek for "friend of God". In the novel, Absalom requests that his son be named "Peter", the name of one of Jesus's disciples. Among Peter's better-known traits is a certain impulsiveness; also, after Christ's arrest, he denied knowing Jesus three times, and later wept in grief over this. After the resurrection, Peter renewed his commitment to Christ and to spreading the Gospel. All that suggests Absalom's final repentance and his commitment to the faith of his father. In another allusion, Arthur Jarvis is described as having a large collection of books on Abraham Lincoln, and the writings of Lincoln are featured several times in the novel. Paton describes Arthur's son as having characteristics similar to his when he was a child, which may allude to the resurrection of Christ.

Film, television and theatrical adaptations

In 1951, the novel was adapted into a motion picture of the same name, directed by Zoltan Korda. Paton wrote the screenplay with John Howard Lawson, who was left out of the original credits because he was blacklisted in Hollywood for refusing to give information to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Kumalo was played by Canada Lee, Jarvis by Charles Carson, and Msimangu by Sidney Poitier. In 1983, a historic stage adaptation was performed by the Capital Players theatre group at the Moth Hall in Gaborone, Botswana. The country was at that time one of the leading "frontline states" to apartheid South Africa and a centre for artistic activity that often stood in quiet opposition to the racist regime just across the border. The premiere was attended by Paton himself, who had travelled from Natal, as well as Botswana's then-President Quett Masire (with political acumen, the director had arranged for the first performance to take place on the President's birthday). School students from across the country were bussed to the capital to see the production. Another film version was released in 1995, directed by Darrell Roodt. James Earl Jones played the Reverend Kumalo and Richard Harris filled the role of Jarvis. A stage version by the South African playwright Roy Sargeant was developed in early 2003; it was first staged at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape on 27 June 2003 and at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town on 8 July 2003. The director was Heinrich Reisenhofer. The script, together with notes and activities for school use, was published in 2006 by Oxford University Press Southern Africa.

Musical adaptation

In 1949, the composer Kurt Weill, in collaboration with the American writer Maxwell Anderson (book and lyrics), composed a musical based on the book called ''Lost in the Stars''. The original Broadway production opened on 30 October 1949 at the Music Box Theatre and starred Todd Duncan and Inez Matthews. It ran for 273 performances before closing on 1 July 1950. It was made into a movie, starring Brock Peters and Melba Moore, released in 1974. ''Lost in the Stars'' is the last work Weill completed before his death in 1950. Although he was influenced by spirituals, jazz and blues, Weill's distinctive and original style shines throughout the score. Israeli contratenor David D'Or performed in a stage version at the Israeli National Theater ("Habima Theater") in 2004. ''Maariv'' in its review wrote: "D'or's outstanding voice is meant for great parts. His voice and presence embraces the audience, who showed their appreciation by a lengthy standing ovation." In August 2012, the Glimmerglass Opera of New York produced the work, in conjunction with Cape Town Opera, directed by Tazewell Thompson.Susan Galbraith, "Lost in the Stars at Glimmerglass"
''DC Theatre Scene.com'', 3 August 2012, accessed 14 February 2013

Release details

*1948, USA, Charles Scribner's Sons ?, Pub date 1 February 1948, hardback *1948, UK, Jonathan Cape , Pub date September 1948, hardback *1970, UK Penguin Modern Classics , Pub date 28 May 1970, paperback *2000, UK Penguin Modern Classics , Pub date 27 April 2000, paperback *2003, USA, Charles Scribner's Sons , Charles Scribner's Sons, Pub date ? November 2003, paperback


{{Alan Paton navbox Category:1948 American novels Category:Apartheid novels Category:Christian novels Category:South African novels adapted into films Category:Novels by Alan Paton Category:Novels set in South Africa Category:Jonathan Cape books Category:Novels adapted into operas Category:Novels adapted into plays