Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved Country Summary and Analysis of Book III, Chapters 30-36

Chapter Thirty:

Stephen Kumalo returns home, where he greets his wife and tells her that Absalom will die soon and that Gertrude has run away. He introduces his wife to the girl and the little boy. The girl suddenly bursts into weeping. Several friends welcome Kumalo home. It is very dry in Ixopo; there has been a drought for a month. The women get water from the river that comes from the estate of Jarvis. Kumalo inquires about Jarvis, and the people from the village tell him that Jarvis returned yesterday, and his wife returned weeks ago. Kumalo gives his first sermon upon his return, in which he beseeches Tixo (God) to give them rain, and prays for the small boy, forgiveness for Gertrude, and for safety and welcome for the girl. A new teacher suggests that the congregation sing Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica (God save Africa). After the service, Kumalo turns to his friend and tells him about Gertrude and Absalom. Kumalo wonders what kind of man can he be with family such as the one he has, and wonders whether he can really remain as pastor. Kumalo tells his friend about the daughter of Sibeko, and how the family does not care, then muses that pain and suffering are a secret, as are kindness and love. Kumalo tells his friend that he is a preacher, but his friend looks at his own hands and asks if these are the hands of the preacher. Kumalo tells his friend how Jarvis left out the fact that the Smiths do not care in his translation. Kumalo returns home and sees his wife. He tells her about the money that Msimangu left for them, and she rejoices as they think about what they may buy with the money.


The final section of the novel moves away from concerns over Absalom Kumalo's fate to the fate of the entire village of Ndotsheni. The drought at Ndotsheni is the significant event of the third book of Cry, the Beloved Country. It is important for several reasons, in both the mechanics of the plot and the larger symbolic implications. The drought is the impetus for action on part of a significant character in the novel, but more importantly, it symbolizes the state of Ndotsheni and of South Africa in general. The drought in Ndotsheni is a metaphor for the larger drought in South Africa itself. Causing a lack of nourishment among the people and beyond the control of its victims, the drought can be combated only through widespread improvements within South Africa and a communal effort uniting all segments of South African society. Paton bolsters the idea that Ndotsheni is merely a microcosm representing all of South Africa through Stephen Kumalo's church service, in which they pray for God to save Africa.

Alan Paton makes the change in Stephen Kumalo clear upon his return to Ixopo. The once proud man returns to his native village with a sense of humility that often reverts into deep shame. This is most evident in Kumalo's questions concerning his position as pastor. For the first time, Kumalo questions his role in the fate of his son and his sister, wondering whether he can be an honorable man with a dishonorable family. This causes Kumalo to begin to deny that he is a proper pastor, but this is merely a stage in the character's development, as he moves from denial into acceptance and then action. Although the respective stories of Absalom and Gertrude Kumalo are essentially concluded, their effects on Stephen still reverberate.

While establishing the external conflict (the drought) and the internal conflict (Stephen Kumalo's regret) that will drive the final chapters of the novel, Paton foreshadows the resolution of these conflicts. The mentions of James Jarvis throughout the chapter are numerous, suggesting that his role in the novel is not yet finished. Also, this chapter finally makes clear that Stephen Kumalo is aware of the kindness that James Jarvis has shown him, even if he is as yet unaware of the kindness that he will perform.

Chapter Thirty-One:

Kumalo begins to pray regularly for the restoration of Ndotsheni, but he knows that was not enough. He looks around the hills and sees that he must speak to the chief, a great stout man in riding breeches, and his counselors. The other person to whom Kumalo must speak is the headmaster, a smiling man in round spectacles. Kumalo goes to the chief, who tells Kumalo to wait. As Kumalo rests, he realizes how far he has traveled since the journey to Johannesburg. When Kumalo speaks to the chief, he tells him that he has been to Johannesburg, where he saw many of their people. He suggests to the chief that they should try to keep some of the people in the valley by caring for the land before it is too late. The chief finally says that he has thought of these matters for some time, and he will talk to the inspector again soon. Kumalo replies that it is sad to look upon the place where they are teaching it, but the cattle are dying and children are dying. The chief reminds him that the suffering is because of the drought, but Kumalo says that, dry or not, for many years it has been the same. The chief finally dismisses him, and Kumalo returns to the church. He seeks the headmaster of the school, but is not more successful with him. The headmaster is polite and obliging, but he cannot answer Kumalo's question of how to keep the children in Ndotsheni. As Kumalo works in his church, he sees a small white boy on a red horse. The little boy tells Kumalo that he goes to St. Mark's, and he asks if he can see inside the parson's house. The little boy asks about what Kumalo is working on, and he says that it is the church's accounts. The little boy says that he thought that only shops have accounts. The little boy wishes to know a little about Zulu, and the meaning of inkosana, which Kumalo calls him (it is little master), and he asks what he should call Kumalo. The boy asks for milk from the refrigerator, but Kumalo says that they have neither milk nor a refrigerator. Kumalo teaches the boy a bit of Zulu, and the boy says that he will visit him again. When the boy asks what children do, Kumalo says that the children, such as the child of Kuluze, are dying without milk.

At dinner, Kumalo and his wife, the girl and the small boy have their meal. The friend who carried Kumalo's bags arrives at the house with a message from Jarvis. The friend asks if the small white boy was there today, and then tells Kumalo that he saw the white boy talking about Kuluse's child. The friend brings milk for Kumalo to distribute to the small children.


Alan Paton devotes this chapter to the obstacles that Stephen Kumalo faces in his attempts to bring back order to Ndotsheni. Primary among these obstacles is the chief who rules over the region, whom Paton portrays as a man who is devoted only to his personal well-being and not that of his subjects. He essentially dismisses Kumalo's concerns, despite the minister's respected position in the community, and leaves Kumalo with little more than platitudes. This continues a theme of ineffective leaders that are prevalent throughout Cry, the Beloved Country. The chief is little more than John Kumalo in native dress and traditional mannerisms. Again, Paton creates an uncomfortable racial divide; while most of the white authority figures in the novel are benevolent (James Jarvis, the judge, the reformatory worker), the black characters in positions of power (John Kumalo, the chief) are corrupt.

In this chapter, Stephen Kumalo evolves from his earlier denial and shame to a sense of duty and social justice. No longer expressing doubts over whether or not he is appropriate for his role, he instead uses his tragedies as an impetus for action on behalf of his village.

Yet it is not Stephen Kumalo's newfound sense of social justice that leads to the first step toward improvement in his village. It is instead the sense of kindness and empathy that he has shown throughout the novel and that he shows toward the little boy. It is by spending time with the young boy and teaching the little white boy that he causes action to be taken. Although it is not explicitly stated yet in this chapter, Paton greatly foreshadows that it is James Jarvis who donates the milk for the small children. Paton earlier established that Jarvis's estate is the source for most of the water in the village, and Jarvis repays the kindness that Kumalo showed to the young white boy (as well as his earlier established decency) with actions intended to help save Kumalo's village. Although there is a sense that social activism plays a small role in the decision (Kumalo's concern for the matter are so great that he tells the boy about the problems in Ndotsheni), it is a sense of basic human decency that leads to social improvement. This corresponds with Paton's view that improvement in South Africa is only possible when people work communally for the social good, behaving with a sense of Christian decency and kindness.

Chapter Thirty-Two:

Kumalo receives several letters from Johannesburg, including one from Absalom to his wife, from Absalom to his parents, one from Msimangu and one from Mr. Carmichael. Kumalo opens the one from Carmichael fearfully, because it concerns the mercy. The lawyer writes that there will be none, and that Absalom will be hanged on the fifteenth day of the month. Kumalo sits idly in pain, so his wife suggests that he go see Kuluse's child and do his work. Kumalo shows his wife the letter from Absalom, who writes that he is locked in prison, but can smoke and read and write letters. He writes that he thinks of them back in Ndotsheni, and if he were back there he would not leave again. When Kumalo reads Msimangu's letter, he finds himself astonished to be faintly nostalgic for the great city. Kumalo sees a car from down the road from Carisbrooke. There is a white man on a horse waiting for the car: it is Jarvis. The man in the car is the magistrate. He meets with the chief, and they appear to discuss what should be done; Kumalo is too far away to hear, but he can see that they are using sticks to discuss their plans. Kumalo hears the magistrate say to one of the white men that they say that Jarvis is going crazy and won't have any money left. The magistrate orders that none of the sticks be moved. Jarvis had said that the storm that is coming will be no ordinary storm. As the storm comes, Jarvis hurries back to his horse, but then lets it loose and goes to Kumalo and asks if he can remain in the church. During the storm, Jarvis asks if there is mercy for Absalom, and Kumalo shows him the letter. Jarvis leaves as the rain still pounds lightly.

Nobody understands the purpose of the sticks that are in the ground. Small children attempt to play with the sticks, but they behave in horror when one child, Dazuma, pulls a stick out of the ground despite the chief's orders. Another cart with milk arrives.


The news concerning Absalom Kumalo is not a surprise; it merely confirms the inevitable that Paton has foreshadowed since the beginning of the murder plotline that compromised a significant portion of the novel. The importance of this plotline is no longer the fate of Absalom, for Paton made his fate relatively clear from the beginning; instead, Absalom Kumalo remains significant primarily for the effect that he has on his father, who has been changed by his son's actions and the events surrounding it. Absalom continues to regret his actions and now even regrets departing from Ndotsheni, thus confirming his father's belief that a life centered around the rural, family-centered life on Ixopo is preferable to the urban wasteland that is Johannesburg. (Nevertheless, for the first time Stephen Kumalo finds himself thinking fondly of Johannesburg, yet this is for the Œfamily' that he found in the city including Msimangu and Mrs. Lithebe). An integral part of Stephen Kumalo's recovery from the pain that his son has caused him is his newfound activism to save the people of his village. As his wife realizes, his work redeems him; it is his means to prevent others from suffering the same fate as Absalom and Gertrude.

The appearance of James Jarvis is of little surprise; Paton confirms in this chapter that it is Jarvis who provided the milk for the children, in no small part because of Stephen Kumalo's kindness to the child. Paton portrays James Jarvis as a savior in this chapter. He literally rides into the village on a white horse to save the village from its drought by doing what Stephen Kumalo cannot. In some ways, the appearance of Jarvis is a bit of a deus ex machine with unfortunate implications; in a story about the trials and tribulations of blacks in South Africa, the people are saved by the sudden kindness of a wealthy white man. Yet Paton mutes the more disturbing implications of this plot occurrence by making clear the effect that Stephen Kumalo has had on James Jarvis. The heroism of James Jarvis would be impossible without the exemplary behavior of Stephen Kumalo.

The storm that occurs in Ndotsheni is an example of not quite subtle symbolism regarding Jarvis and Kumalo; it represents the turmoil that both men face and the adversity that both have weathered. Once again, the two men face these tribulations together, yet by accident. By this point in the novel, both characters have reached relatively similar points. Both men have progressed from simple anguish over their respective tragedies and are focused on effecting social change to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

The mysterious sticks in the ground, considered by the village with nearly religious significance, give some indication of the concrete plans that Jarvis has concerning bringing improvement to Ndotsheni. The sticks in the ground represent a mix of both the traditional and the modern: the use of basic building materials to represent a modern, technological improvement (likely a dam). This confluence of the modern and the traditional is additionally represented by the communal efforts of James Jarvis and Stephen Kumalo, who employ their respective modern training and traditional values in order to effect change in the village.

Chapter Thirty-Three:

The sticks stand for several days. There are rumors that a dam will be built there. Kumalo prays regularly for the restoration of Ndotsheni, and Kuluse's child does recover. The girl is happy in her new home, and the small boy plays with the other small boys; he does not ask about his mother. Nobody asks about Absalom, and those who speak of him make no ill judgment on Kumalo for his son's behavior. The small white boy returns to talk Zulu, and meets Gertrude's child. Kumalo tells him, in English and in Zulu, that when he leaves, something bright will go out of Ndotsheni. The small white boy meets Kumalo's wife, and she tells him that she is overcome and knows not what to say. Kumalo teaches the boy more words in Zulu. When he leaves, Kumalo goes to the church, where he meets a young man, Napoleon Letsitsi, the new agricultural demonstrator. He says that Jarvis has sent him here to teach farming in Ndotsheni. Kumalo laughs that Letsitsi is an angel from God. Letsitsi gives Kumalo agricultural advice, and says that there has to be a dam so that the cattle always have water to drink. Kumalo suggests that Letsitsi first go to the chief. The young man says that there is much to be done, but it will not happen quickly. Kumalo prays that he will at least see the improvement before he dies.


An important theme in the final chapters of the novel is the confluence between African and European cultures. The alliance between Stephen Kumalo and James Jarvis as well as the use of the sticks in the previous chapter are examples that demonstrate this theme. The character Napoleon Letsitsi introduced in this chapter is a further example. Letsitsi incorporates a native background with modern knowledge, and thus can bridge the gap between the two cultures as he attempts to teach the villagers in Ndotsheni better ways of farming. The small white boy, in a much smaller way, also demonstrates the same theme as he learns more about the Zulu language and culture.

This chapter gives an additional perspective on Stephen Kumalo, noting that the other villagers do not blame him for the actions of this family. This is a significant point, for it makes clear the position of the village, which will be significant in coming chapters, and it also demonstrates that a significant portion of the shame that Stephen Kumalo feels is unnecessary. The others do not think him less worthy because of what has happened, no matter what Kumalo might suspect about himself.

Chapter Thirty-Four:

Kumalo awaits the Bishop's arrival for a confirmation ceremony. He is surprised to see his friend driving along the road with the cart that brought the milk, for it never comes this early. His friend tells Kumalo that Mrs. Jarvis is dead. Kumalo writes a letter in English to Jarvis in consolation for his wife's death, but he wonders whether he should send it, for she may have died of a broken heart from the death of her son, and it would be inappropriate for the father of her son's murderer to offer condolences. Kumalo considers Jarvis's kindness and decides to send the letter. After the confirmation that day, the Bishop speaks to Kumalo, and suggests that he go away from Ndotsheni. Kumalo says that if he were to leave, he would die. Kumalo says that the people love him, despite his age. The Bishop finally tells him that he should go because Jarvis lives nearby, but Kumalo, although he does not say so, remembers that Jarvis has visited him and sent milk for the children. The Bishop wants Kumalo to go to Pietermaritzburg to his friend Ntombela, whom Kumalo would help. The Bishop tells Kumalo that if he stays, there will be many loads on his shoulders, including the rebuilding of the church. Kumalo receives a letter from James Jarvis, who tells Kumalo that it was one of his wife's last wishes that a new church be built at Ndotsheni and that his wife had been in poor health even before Johannesburg. The Bishop asks to see the letter, and Kumalo tells him about the milk. He finally decides that it is not God's will that Kumalo should leave Ndotsheni.

When Kumalo returns home, he finds his wife, the girl, and his friend busy making a wreath from a cypress branch. The friend wonders whether they are using the right flowers for the wreath, and the friend agrees to fetch arum lilies from a stream on the far side of Carisbrooke.


An important consideration for Stephen Kumalo in regard to his relationship with James Jarvis is the tension between human consideration and socially appropriate behavior. This consideration was brought up in earlier chapters, in which Kumalo considered how he could behave around the man whose son Absalom murdered, and returns again in this chapter. Yet Paton finally resolves this tension when Kumalo decides against considerations of possible impropriety and finally decides that kindness and empathy are more important values. It is here that Paton makes clear the effect that James Jarvis has had on Kumalo; the relationship is reciprocal; not only did Stephen Kumalo inspire James Jarvis to behave with greater social awareness, James Jarvis inspires Kumalo to behave in accordance with his more noble instincts.

In this chapter, Paton demonstrates the marked change that has occurred in Stephen Kumalo since his arrival home from Johannesburg. While Kumalo first considered him unworthy to remain pastor in the area, even attempting to cede the job to his friend, Kumalo has no quelled his doubts over his worth and fights to remain in Ndotsheni. There is a sense of irony in the bishop's argument: while he believes that Jarvis makes Kumalo's position as pastor untenable and the work that he will undertake is too great, it is in fact the actions of James Jarvis that have confirmed to Kumalo that he must remain in his position and the work that sustains Kumalo in this time of tragedy.

Chapter Thirty-Five:

There is a new sense of excitement in the valley concerning the new developments. Kumalo compares the new teacher, Napoleon Letsitsi, to his more famous namesake. Kumalo credits him with many of the improvements in the region. When Letsitsi says that, with the water from the dam leading to more healthy cows, they will no longer need the white man's milk, Kumalo reprimands him for seeming ungrateful. Letsitsi says that it was the white man who gave them so little land and took them away from the land to go to work, so what this good man does is only a repayment. Letsitsi says that he does not work for men or for money, but for the land and the people, for Africa as a whole. Kumalo thinks upon the situation, and realizes that those who show compassion or sympathy for the white men are called, as he is, a "white man's dog."


In the penultimate chapter of the novel, Alan Paton resolves the situation in Ndotsheni, making clear that the improvements for which Jarvis, Kumalo and Letsitsi have worked are at last beginning to sustain the region. Once again Paton maintains a sense of reciprocity between the cultures when Kumalo reprimands Letsitsi for ingratitude. While the effect of the dam will be a greater independence for the blacks in Ndotsheni, this sense of independence is not the goal; the final goal of the improvements is a greater good for all of South Africa, and not merely the black population. Paton further rejects the idea that this reciprocity is a sign of weakness on the side of blacks in South Africa, as Kumalo scoffs at the idea that those who show sympathy for Europeans are a "white man's dog." To accept kindness, for Kumalo (and by extension Paton) is a sign of gratitude and a move for the communal good, and thus more important than foolish considerations of pride.

Chapter Thirty-Six:

Kumalo tells his wife that he is going up into the mountain, as he had done when Absalom was sick, when he had thought of giving up the ministry to run a native store in Donnybrook for a white man named Baxter, and when he had considered committing adultery. This time, Kumalo invites his wife to come along, but she says that she cannot leave the girl. As Kumalo leaves that night, he sees Jarvis on his horse. Jarvis asks if he desires a new church, and tells him that the plans will shortly come to him. Jarvis asks about Letsitsi, and then tells Kumalo that he is going to live with his daughter and her children in Johannesburg. Kumalo thanks Jarvis, but Jarvis says that he is no saintly man. While on his journey, Kumalo thinks of his various reasons to give thanks, such as Msimangu, the young man from the reformatory, Mrs. Lithebe, Father Vincent, and his wife and his friend. He wonders why it is the man whose son was murdered by Absalom who is now attempting to save Ndotsheni. Kumalo thinks of those who are suffering, such as Gertrude and the people of Shanty Town. He cries out for his son, and thinks also of Jarvis and his family, and in the end all of Africa.

When Kumalo awakes, he realizes that it is now the day of his son's execution. Kumalo prays as the dawn comes. Ndotsheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there, for it always does. However, the time in which the dawn of emancipation from fear and bondage will come is a secret.


The final confrontation between Jarvis and Kumalo emphasizes the parallels between the two characters. Both suffered greatly during their journeys to Johannesburg, and then used their suffering as an impetus toward social action. Both men are aware of their faults and limitations, as Jarvis shows when he emphasizes that he is not a saint, but in their actions more often than not they behave impeccably.

Although Paton constructs Stephen Kumalo's journey to the mountain as the final test that the pastor faces in Cry, the Beloved Country, this pilgrimage serves as less of a trial than a summation. Even before Kumalo leaves to remain on the mountain on the day that Absalom will be executed, Kumalo seems secure; he does not need to make a solitary and personal journey as he has done before, as he shows by inviting his wife to join him on the mountain.

Kumalo's thoughts during his journey to the mountain serve as a beacon of hope in the novel. Kumalo does not think primarily of the suffering that he and others face, but instead considers the kindness of others such as Msimangu and James Jarvis. Paton shifts the focus of this chapter from the particular, including the fate of Absalom and the actions of the various characters throughout the novel, to larger social ramifications. Paton thus relates the fate of the novel's characters to the fate of the South Africa in general. The novel thus ends on a note of hope: Kumalo awakes from a both a literal and a metaphorical darkness into dawn. Therefore, while Paton ends the novel with the question of when Africa itself will emerge from its metaphorical darkness, there is nevertheless the assumption that the emergence into a dawn is inevitable. The question of when this emergence from darkness will occur is the only question that Paton can now pose.