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Cry, the Beloved Country | Study Guide

Alan Paton

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Cry, the Beloved Country | Symbols



The city of Johannesburg is a complex symbol in the novel. As a large metropolis, it is a meeting place as well as a melting pot. It is also an urban center that serves as a host for crime and violence. The city is so large that tracing people and their whereabouts is difficult.

As the center of the gold-mining industry, Johannesburg is also of critical economic importance to South Africa. This is apparent in the novel when the potentially crippling effects of a miners' strike are discussed.

For Stephen Kumalo, Johannesburg represents a new and forbidding scene. It takes him some time to adjust to the rhythms and ways of the big city. What he learns of Johannesburg is not encouraging, for the most part, since his sister, Gertrude, and his son, Absalom, have turned to dissolute lives there. Paton devotes a significant amount of space to his descriptions of the city. On the whole, his verdict seems negative. As he says at the end of Chapter 23: "No second Johannesburg is needed upon the earth. One is enough."

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (1809–65) served as the 16th president of the United States (1861-65). He was president during the American Civil War, which began in April 1861 and concluded in April 1865. Today, Lincoln is revered as the Great Emancipator, because he freed slaves in the Southern states in 1863. He is also respected as a leader who tried to bind up the nation's wounds following its most severe internal conflict.

In Cry, the Beloved Country, Lincoln assumes a prominent place as Arthur Jarvis's hero. When James Jarvis visits his son's house, he finds several books about Lincoln. James reads both the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address. In these important texts, Lincoln sets forth his ideals, and James finds them inspirational.

As a symbol, Abraham Lincoln stands for equality, justice, and selfless sacrifice. Paton assumes his readers will know Lincoln fell to an assassin's bullet in April 1865.

The Land

Paton's original editor at Scribner's, Maxwell Perkins, commented that one of the most important characters in Cry, the Beloved Country was the land of South Africa. Paton's lyrical celebration of the land's beauty, and his periodic laments for its disintegration, add a symbolic dimension to the novel.

In the novel's opening paragraph, Paton lyrically evokes the beauty of the land of Natal, home to Stephen Kumalo and his family. Periodically, however, the narrator draws attention to the drought that cripples agriculture in the region. This concern takes center stage in Book 3, where agricultural redevelopment—sponsored by James Jarvis, in large part—assumes a major role.

The young agricultural expert, Napoleon Letsitsi, emphasizes that the road back to normalcy and productivity will not be short or easy. But by the end of the novel, Stephen Kumalo and many of the other characters are inspired with the hope that the land—so beautiful and yet so scarred—will at length recover.

Questions for Symbols

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Question: Chapter One: Discussion Board Option #1 - Landmarks of the Ancient World Respond in writing to the following questions after reading Chapter 1. 1 - Which three landmarks do you believe are m
Question: Chapter One: Discussion Board Option #4 - Women in Ancient Society Women in Ancient Society An eminent historian (Gerda Lerner) claims that "class [in ancient society] was constructed out of
Question: Chapter One: Discussion Board Option #2 - Hindu Beliefs Making Connections: Hindu Beliefs Search the Internet and watch the video below. Hindu pantheism suggests that all things in the unive
1. The first line suggests that a. At some point in time, a person desires a permanent place to call home b. At some time of the year, a person has the urge to move to a new place c. There are times i
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