Cry, the Beloved Country

Rural vs Urban

Cry, the Beloved Country contrasts the rural and urban ways of life that exist between Johannesburg and the world of Ndotsheni. How does the author’s use of setting contribute to the development of the theme(s) of the novel?

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Alan Paton uses the conflict between urban and rural society and the various qualities they represent as a major theme of the novel. For Paton, rural life is best exemplified by Stephen Kumalo and his personality, while urban life is best exemplified by John Kumalo. Paton clearly places his sympathy on the qualities of rural life: rural society comes to represent family, religion, morality and stability, while the chaotic urban life that Paton describes represents the breaking up of families, hedonism, and atheism. Paton also illustrates this theme through the development of several characters in the novel: the literal move of characters such as the pregnant girl to rural life in Ndotsheni represents a change to a greater moral sense, while the most corrupt character in the novel, John Kumalo, is fully enmeshed in urban Johannesburg society.