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Cry The Beloved Country
"Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end. The sun pours down on
the earth, on the lovely land that man cannot enjoy. He knows only the fear of his
Called the greatest novel to emerge out of the tragedy of South Africa, and one of the
best novels of our time, Cry, The Beloved Country, tells the story of a priest desperately
searching for his son in South Africa during the time of apartheid.
Stephen Kumalo is a South African priest living in Natal, South Africa. Stephen's only
family has moved far away to the city of Johannesburg and it has been years since
anyone has written. One day a native girl brings a letter to Reverend Kumalo, referred
to as umfundisi, or revered one. The letter is written by a priest, Reverend Msimangu in
Johannesburg who has received word that umfundisi's sister, Gertrude is ill and needs
his assistance. Umfundisi must make the long and tiring trip to Johannesburg to save his
sister, and hopefully find his son, Absalom. Father Kumalo has dreaded the trip to the
city. He is afraid of what he is going to find, he does not know what to expect from the
city the he has heard so much about.
Reverend Kumalo takes the train to Johannesburg, also something new for him. After the
long train ride, he arrives in Johannesburg. He sees large buildings, flashing lights,
thousands of people. He is scared and alone. Then a young boy comes and offers to
bring him to the bus station. Umfundisi is relieved and willing gives the boy his bag and
follows him to the bus station. Once there, the boy offers to go get the ticket for
umfundisi. He gives the boy the money and never sees him again. He had been robbed.
This first incident in the city makes Reverend Kumalo very skeptical and from that point
on he looks at the city as a place of evil.
Once to vicarage, Stephen is greeted by Reverend Msimangu, who sent him the letter.
He tells Stephen that he has seen his sister Gertrude and that she is in bad condition. She
has turned to prostitution to make a living to support her son. She has no husband. This
saddens umfundisi. Right away they go to see Gertrude. She apologizes for moving to
the big city and offending her brother. Umfundisi forgives her and Gertrude decides to
move back to Natal with her brother and son. This is the least of umfundisi's problems.
He finds his brother, John Kumalo. John has turned to politics and away from god. He
is cold and uninviting towards his brother. He finds that the problems of South Africa
are his business and talking to god is not. Umfundisi is offended by this.
Reverend Kumalo's largest problem is trying to find his son, Absalom. John tells
Stephen that Absalom, and John's son, Matthew had been in Johannesburg, but had left to
do business. He sends Stephen to Sophiatown, the place of their last residence. They
have no luck in Sophiatown, and are sent to Orlando to look for the two boys. The
woman in Orlando claims to know nothing of the boys, but after much questioning she
reveals that the boys were involved with robberies in the area and had been sent to the
reformatory. When umfundisi arrives at the reformatory, Absalom has been released.
Reverend Kumalo does not know where to look after this.
At the same time that the two priests are looking for the boys, a murder takes place, the
murder of Mr. Arthur Jarvis. Mr. Jarvis, a European, was an exceptional speaker and
writer. He wrote of the injustice that occurred in South Africa. He was against
apartheid and segregation. He was a revolutionary man in South Africa. He formed
boys clubs and helped the black community of Johannesburg. He was murdered by three
burglars who unlawfully entered his house.
His murder was the talk of the town, and it just so happens that Absalom and Matthew
were two of the three men who broke into Mr. Jarvis' house and murdered him.
Umfundisi is finally reunited with his son in jail. They discuss what has occured and
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