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Cry, the Beloved Country | Study Guide

Alan Paton

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Cry, the Beloved Country | Book 3, Chapters 32–33 | Summary



Chapter 32

Four letters from Johannesburg and Pretoria arrive for Stephen in Ndotsheni. In the first, Mr. Carmichael gently informs the Kumalos there will be no mercy, or substitution of the death sentence, for Absalom. In another letter, Theophilus conveys news. The two remaining letters are from Absalom—one for his parents, and one for his wife.

Stephen is convinced the drought will finally break. He notices James, accompanied by a white magistrate and some other men, planting mysterious sticks at various places (they turn out to be surveyors' marks for a dam). The hills go very dark, and the rain crashes forth. Both Stephen and James take refuge in Stephen's church, but they must contend with the leaky roof and with puddles all over the floor. Stephen tells James that Absalom will be hanged on the 15th day of the month, since mercy has not been granted.

Chapter 33

In this chapter, progress in the rehabilitation of the land begins to manifest itself. Stephens grows optimistic about James's efforts. Specifically, a new expert arrives—the agricultural demonstrator, Napoleon Letsitsi. Stephen's spirits are also lifted by another encounter with Arthur's young son, whom he calls "a small angel from God."


Despite the sorrowful news from Mr. Carmichael about Absalom, the theme of hope is strongly reasserted in these chapters. The drought finally breaks; Jarvis spearheads an effort to build a new dam; and a new agricultural expert arrives. Perhaps most important for Stephen's spirits, James's grandson pays another visit. Touches of humor enliven the narrative, as when both Stephen and James must dodge the rain splashing into St. Mark's Church through the leaky roof. Stephen laughs often with Arthur's son: "It was easy to laugh with this small boy, there seemed to be laughter inside him."

In another scene suggesting hope, Stephen's wife marvels that the son of the man killed by her own son, Absalom, visits the Kumalos' home, complimenting her on its arrangement. In an eloquent compliment of his own, Stephen tells the boy, "When you go, something bright will go out of Ndotsheni."

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