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The pastor of Ixopo, a village in the rural South African region of Ndotsheni, Kumalo visits Johannesburg in order to save his sister, Gertrude, when he receives a letter telling him that she is ill, but then begins to search for his son, Absalom, who had gone to Johannesburg but never returned. A kind and just man who believes in the strength of family life, Kumalo searches desperately for his son in order to reunite his family, but becomes an activist for social justice and a return to rural life once he learns that his son is responsible for the murder of Arthur Jarvis. Cry, the Beloved Country is essentially the story of Kumalo's newfound concern for the fate of South Africa and its inhabitants.
He is a wealthy white man in South Africa whose son, Arthur Jarvis, is a renowned social reformer murdered by Absalom Kumalo during a robbery. When he visits Johannesburg for the funeral for his son and the trial of Absalom, James Jarvis learns more about the social work that Jarvis did on behalf of South Africa and eventually devotes himself to promoting social justice in South Africa. James Jarvis later befriends Stephen Kumalo when they meet by chance while Kumalo delivers a letter. Although a conservative man, James Jarvis eventually devotes himself wholeheartedly to social progress, donating ten thousand dollars to start the Arthur Jarvis Club, donating milk from his estate to help starting children during the drought and arranging for a dam to be built in Ixopo to prevent further droughts.