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Cry, the Beloved Country | Study Guide

Alan Paton

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Cry, the Beloved Country | Character Analysis


Rev. Stephen Kumalo

Stephen Kumalo is portrayed as admirable and courageous, but he is also realistically presented as subject to temptation. He must struggle against anger, for example. And he succumbs to the temptation to lie to his brother, John Kumalo. Nevertheless, he is a genuinely conscientious and loving human being, deeply concerned about his family, his people, and his homeland.

James Jarvis

James Jarvis is the most dynamic character in the novel, for he changes significantly over the course of the story. The shock of his son's violent death leads him not to seek revenge, but rather to search deeply in order to understand Arthur's pioneering social beliefs. James's destiny leads him to forge a remarkable bond with Stephen Kumalo, the father of the young man who shot Arthur.

Rev. Theophilus Msimangu

Theophilus Msimangu becomes Stephen Kumalo's most energetic and reliable guide and supporter. He is philosophical, but also emotional and occasionally cynical. He is portrayed as a character of great loyalty and eloquence. Toward the end, he decides to withdraw from the world and become South Africa's first black monk.

Absalom Kumalo

Absalom Kumalo is portrayed as weak, irresponsible, and confused. He has slid into a life of petty crime in Johannesburg. At his first reunion with his father, he blames his ill fortune on bad companions and the devil. Gradually, however, he assumes more responsibility.

Arthur Jarvis

Arthur Jarvis is presented to the reader solely through the manuscripts he left behind in his residence in Johannesburg. These papers show him as a thoughtful, passionate idealist—someone who has considered the dilemmas faced by South African society. He is especially concerned about black youth in the country.

Gertrude Kumalo

Gertrude Kumalo's poor health serves as the motive for Stephen Kumalo's journey to Johannesburg. Midway through the novel, it seems as if Gertrude is ready to turn over a new leaf and return to Ndotsheni. But ultimately, she finds reformation is too great a challenge, and she disappears once again.

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