Cry the Beloved Country': Literary Criticism

This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

Cite this essay cite-image

Strength can be subjective whether it's physical to mental it all has the same great importance. In my opinion, the most important strength is moral and spiritual strength. I think this because when you have a strong grounding in your own values and spiritual morals everything else comes and falls into place. Things like physical strength and mental strength come easier and in a healthier way. Once you have that grounding in your life it can open opportunities and show you things you never dreamed of. It takes faith and strength between your faith to ultimately have the most well-rounded lifestyle.

In Cry the beloved Stephen Kumalo takes a trip to the city leaving his hometown to rescue his family. His son Absalom was living in Johanessburg struggling and ended up murdering a white man. He was Aurhtur Jarvis the son of James Jarvis who was a wealthy landowner in Johannesburg. Along Kumlos' trip, he meets up with people like Rev. Msimangu and Mrs. Lithebe. They all help him reach his main goal of getting Absalom out of prison which fails. In the end, James Jarvis has a realization and makes a change in his life to try to love everybody as his late son did.

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place an order

Arthur Jarvis is the strongest character because he had sympathy and required change, he cared about all people, and he had a very strong spiritual faith. Arthur is a very strong character in this story and was a sympathetic man for oppressed people. Jarvis believed in “sympathy for the oppressed blacks''(Loy). Jarvis had a strong belief that black crime usually comes from corrupt white leaders abusing power. He saw that as very wrong and worked to demand change within his community. Arthur shows a deep “passionate advocacy of black rights”(Loy). Jarvis, though not mentioned in the story, was obviously a man of deep integrity and fixed morale. He saw the problems in his community which enabled him to learn and change. In the end, Jarvis is a man who educated himself and grew sympathy which enabled him to care about all people.

In the story, Paton used Arthur as a character who described himself making it known that he really did care for the people of Johannesburg. In the article, Loy states that “Arthur expresses sentiments similar to those of Msimangu '' (Loy). In the story, Misamangu is a man of great stature and faith and he cares for people no matter what. Stephen Kumalo is a prime example of when Misamangu is caring, taking care of, and helping Kumalo find his family. Jarvis' young son visits Stephen in the village with a desire to learn about the culture which “shows how Arthur's care and concern for others have been passed down to his son”(Paton pg.214). In many ways, I'm sure Aurthur's constant sentiment and care rubbed off on the people around. Even though Authru was murdered and not in the presence of his father, James was still changed and influenced by his son. Another reason why James Jarvis' mindset was changed was due to Arthur's deep interest in the bible and a spiritual connection with God.

In this story, Arthur Jarvis is a spiritual man. When James is going through Arthur's things he finds that “Aurthurs writing reveals his devout Christianity”(Loy). Jarvis even though he was not mentioned in the story much or had many parts in the story. Jarvis was still influential to the plot because his faith was grounded and that's what the story is all about. When Jarvis visits his son's house he “discovers a life and viewpoint that he really never knew existed”(“Cry”, Literary). James Jarvis was genuinely changed by his visit to his son's house. Arthur was a prime example of having a strong spiritual and moral background because he used that not only for himself but to make a change for the others around him. Arthur Jarvis is the best role model in this story and he is one of the strongest characters due to his sympathy, care, and faith.

Rev. Misamangu was a man who wanted things to be right, wanted to make a positive social change, and loved anyone no matter what. Reverend Kumalo and Misamangu build a deep connection throughout the story. In the story Rev. Misamangu and Kumalo go to John Kumalo and talk about politics “discussing apartheid, and protesting against it”(Moss and Wilson). Rev. Misamangu figures out about the apartheid and judges it as wrong. He and the others protest against hoping for a positive outcome. Misamangu is a man of great character and acknowledges that “there are some white men who give their lives to build up what is broken”(Davies). His morals are set apart and he doesn't make assumptions or judge people from the beginning. His morals and character allow him to watch and see how people move. This makes him a very strong character who was able to make real changes in the story.

Paton made Misamangu a pivotal character because he has the social qualities to make a change in their community. Misamangu was so determined he believed that they would bring “inevitability of social change” to Africans (Callan). The Reverend's words are compared to one of the wisest characters in the story, Letsitsis by Paton. Rev. Misamangu knows the dangers of letting Africa flip upside down and will do anything to keep his community and country on a narrow path. Misamangu is determined “retire into a religious community and gave up the world and all possessions”(Paton 214). He was so invested in saving the fallen community that he basically said here is everything I have let's make Johannesburg better. Lots of people were there supporting Gertrude with her child showing how everybody cared and that he could really make the social change he wanted. Even though he was To make those drastic changes one thing was for sure, Misamangu had to give up some things.

Rev. Misamangu had no problem giving things up, especially if it was not just for him. Misamangu is “extraordinarily compassionate”(“Cry”, Novels) in ways a lot of us can't even begin to comprehend. When people do things that aren't a norm it distinguishes them from others. Misangu is grounded in his faith and through the “storm” he is not moving. Misamangu exclaims that “there is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love”(Paton 39). He is saying that he sees hope for the country and believes that men black and white can come together and work towards this. When people love each other they don't look for glory or power it comes to them organically. That is what makes Rev. Misamangu a strong and unique character bringing people together.

The reform school headmaster is about second chances in the fact that he gives opportunity to Absalom, is about the community, and helps Absalom actually change.

In cry, the beloved country the reform school headmaster plays a great role in the story. He is the man who “releases Absalom for good behavior and finds him a job and a place to live”(“Cry”, Novels). Absalom was released because he showed good behavior but the headmaster went to the extent of giving him another chance. He gave him a place to stay and a job which shows not only his actual intentions but the fact he really didn't want Absalom to go down the wrong path. Absalom “seems to be reformed and on his way to living a regular life.”(“Cry”, Novels). The only way he was reformed was because of the headmaster. He taught and influenced Absalom then gave him a platform to spring off of. That platform isn't just given to Absaolm, it's given to the community.

The community in this sense is the people of the reformatory which in itself is a community. The headmaster is able to pull these people together because he is “polite and obliging by great spectacles”(Paton 233). The headmaster needs to be able to gain the trust of these somewhat troubled individuals to build up this community. Anyone can sense a good or bad character and the success of his reformatory shows that he has the qualities to be the head or the leader. The headmaster explains that “the school is trying to relate the life of the child to the life of the community”(“Cry”, Novels). In a broader sense, he means that the school is a place to prepare these people for what's about to go down in the real world. It gives the students the opportunity to learn what to do in certain situations and how to handle anything thrown at them. The Headmaster teaches those things so the students can change and grow as well as learn and live.

The headmaster’s job is to change people's mindsets and get people on the right track and out of their situations. Absalom Kumalo started off “at a reformatory where Absalom had been sent after being convicted of theft”(“Cry”, Novels). Before the reformatory, Absolaom was obviously in a very tough situation. He was sent to that reformatory because whoever sent him knew that the Headmaster would really be able to change him. Over time Absalom becomes way better and most likely the Headmaster played a large part. The proof of this is that “he is let out on account of excellent behavior”(“Cry”, Novels). Now Absalom is on track and has really changed. It was not just the Headmaster who changed him granted he put work in also. Nevertheless, the Headmaster not only changed Absolom but gave him and the community an opportunity for a second chance.

James Jarvis is the strongest character of this group because he was a landowner, cares enough to read his son's work, and changed due to his son's writings. James Jarvis was a plantation owner in Johannesburg which means he was wealthy. Jarvis was wealthy due to the “flourishing because of his knowledge of irrigation”(Pollard). James Jarvis was introduced to the story as a man who wants to be fond of black people and was a wealthy landowner. This puts him in an immediate advantage of a place of power and strength from the beginning. He was the “landowner in whose valley Kumalo has his church”(Stern). James knew Kumalo beforehand which is more of a disadvantage for him when it comes to Absalom's trial. For that reason, Kumalo is worried and scared because he finds out that the man Absalom killed controls the land his church owns. Kumalo and Jarvis in the end form a genuine relationship which leads Jarvis to want to understand and educate himself.

Jarvis takes it upon himself to go and read his late son’s essays and articles. He reads “the manuscript on which his son was working when he was killed”(Moss and Wilson). Jarvis is changing and this is the first step to making that change. Jarvis has to see the real deal that his son was writing about. Before he reads he said “my son and I didn’t see eye to eye on the native question…but I'd like to see what he wrote ”(Paton 137). He is acknowledging that he and his son don't see eye to eye right now. Then proceeds to say that in layman's terms, he is willing to learn. He stated that he wants to read his son's writing about race because he wants to be able to comprehend his mind and understand why equal rights are important.

Jarvis is beginning to comprehend and when he finishes reading feels something different. When Jarvis finished reading he was “shocked and hurt,... For a moment he felt something almost like anger,...he wiped his eyes…and shook it from him.”(Paton 174). Jarvis is impacted by whatever his son wrote. He had anger come over him and was able to shake it off or lose. James is making changes in their lifestyle slowly even if we don't notice those things. Over time Jarvis genuinely builds a kind heart and fixes his morals and he and his wife “wish that a new church should be built at Ndotsheni”(Paton 262). James Jarvis at this point in the story has had a complete change in his moral integrity and values. He meets with Kumalo to build a new church in his town in the end. This brings a new light to James Jarvis’ name and shows that over time he went from a malice land owner to a giving man who cares about people.

Stephen Kumalo is strong in most ways but he is strongest morally due to his christlike morals, cares about his community and people, and was a simple man who doesn't fit the stereotype of a black African man.

Stephen in my opinion is the strongest character spiritually. He was a “suffering Christ Like a figure from beginning to end”(Pollard). Kumalo genuinely was a man who suffered throughout his community. Though his suffering was worth it because of the people and experiences he met and had. Kumalo was named after “the first Christian who suffered martyrdom for his faith, and he too undergoes a kind of martyrdom, but still, he steadfastly bears witness”(Callan). Throughout Kumalo's journey, he was tested and tried but his morals and faith stayed intact. He not only got through all his trials but he did that because of his faith. Somebody who has strong spiritual grounding will succeed.

Kumalo was not only about himself, he wanted to work for his community. Kumalo “still hopes, however, to contribute to the rebuilding of his people”(Loy). Stephen wanted to genuinely rebuild his community and see a real change. In the story he makes all his moves to accomplish that goal which is a big feat for a man like Kumalo. In the story “Kumalo consults with his wife and decides to use their meager savings to go to the big city to help his sister”(“Cry”, Novels). He was focused on rebuilding the community but family is first. His family was struggling and he came through and revived Gertrude and also the community.

Though repurposing the community is a lot, it wasn't an unreachable goal which is why he achieved it.

Kumalo was able to build relationships with people because he wasn't the same as everyone else. Kumalo “does not represent a white stereotype of a black African”(Callan). He was able to connect with so many different people because they could tell he was different from an average black man in Johannesburg. His morals are actually what allowed him to receive opportunities that he wouldn't have gotten if he didn't take the risk of the trip to Johannesburg. People could tell he is “A simple man of pure faith and a strong moral code”(“Cry,” Twentieth). Having a simple lifestyle and being pure at heart will attract the right people. Eventually, it will rub off on others and give positive impressions. Having strong moral and spiritual strength allowed Kumlo to find his son and sister, be able to build connections to construct a new church, and met big influences on his life throughout his story. All of this goes to show how far being stable in your faith and morals can take you in life.

Works Cited

  1. Callan, Edward. 'Style, Language, Characters.' Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, edited by Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 165, Gale, 2005. Gale Literature Resource Center, link.gale.comappsdocH1420066279LitRC?u=norc72195
Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this paper

Cry the Beloved Country’: Literary Criticism. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Cry the Beloved Country’: Literary Criticism.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
Cry the Beloved Country’: Literary Criticism. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Cry the Beloved Country’: Literary Criticism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:

Join our 150k of happy users

  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
Place an order

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.