BOOK REVIEW: Cry, the Beloved Country

GENRE: Novel

AUTHOR: Alan Stewart Paton


REVIEWER: Mohammed Oluwatimileyin Taoheed

Cry, the Beloved Country is written from the perspective of a third person omniscient narrator, who mainly stays focused on the internal world of Stephen Kumalo. The narrator also dips into the minds of a variety of other characters, particularly James Jarvis.

The book offers a gripping story of a black church priest, Stephen Kumalo’s journey from Ndotsheni to Johannesburg.

Umfundisi (as he was fondly called) went there in search of his son, Absalom.

There dwelt also his brother; John, a carpenter, who had also went to the city in search of his sister, Gertude.

Gertude not only traveled there to secure contact with her husband but also carried along her little child.

The priest arrived in the city and stayed with Msimangu, “the best man” according to the former later in the story – who was the one that wrote him a letter.

He too is a priest in the Mission House, Sopia town.

The latter took him to stay for the night with Mrs. Libethe after a warm welcome.

The search for all: Absalom, John, Gertude – started with much ado; all were got easily except Absalom.

From place to place, Umfundisi and his priest-friend went in search of him, sometimes with bus or taxi and even foot.

He was later found. Alas! He had killed a white man! Though by fear, with a ‘loaded revolver’.

We can’t blame him since fear is a product of South Africa especially for blacks at that time.

The judge verdict is that he should be hanged since the Bible preached that “death is the wage for sin” (Roman 6:23), just like other religions of the world.

It is not null or void since the judgement followed the constitutional provisions of every state that “death should be the ultimate reward for a murderer”. Hence, the judgment is impeccably not racial.

However, my utmost surprise was that can a person whose only begotten son shot dead and killed in his lifetime still be generous to the family of the murderer?

We should not be too shocked, our beliefs differ. Some low, some high. It will be eye-catching as you read the novel.

Mr Jarvis, though a pure white man, together with his wife (who are the parents of the deceased young man killed by Absalom) till she lost her life touchingly was more than generous to the priest and his entire community as a whole.

He drew lots of progressive plans for them.

Paton injects here that not all the whites are the same: we have the good and the bad ones.

But, Africa had to be released from the bondage of fear as it was what triggered Absalom to commit the awful and criminal offense of murder, he never “meant to kill”.

In another story of a Native Son, Paton rather speaks of the shabby South Africa in the most lucid way.

We should cry for fear and our beloved country for good restoration.

Paton preaches here that every crime from the blacks from any part of the world, not only in Africa, is as a result of fear and this is true if properly examined by our
learned critics of the society.

About The Author

Alan Stewart Paton was born January 11, 1903 in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa.

He died on April 12, 1988, near, Natal.

A South African writer popular for his first novel; “Cry, the Beloved Country” written in 1948, a passionate tale of racial injustice that brought international attention to the catastrophe of apartheid in South Africa. Paton attended the University of Natal (later incorporated into the University of KwaZulu-Natal).

He then taught in the school from 1925 to 1935.

In 1935, Paton left his teaching position to direct Diepkloof Reformatory for delinquent urban African boys, near Johannesburg.

The success of “Cry, the Beloved Country“, which he wrote during his tenure at the reformatory, led him to resign his post for full-time writing.

The book vividly depicts the anguish suffered by an elderly black minister who must come to terms with his faith when his son is convicted of murdering a white man.

Paton wrote the screenplay for the 195 film adaptation.


This novel has got two adaptations; one drama adaptation by UK in 1951, directed by Zoltan Korda, starring Canada Lee, Charles Carson and Sidney Poitier, With IMDB rating 7/10 and another in 1995.

About The Reviewer

Born and bred in Offa; a prominent town in Kwara State, Nigeria in the early 20s, Mohammed Oluwatimileyin Taoheed is a prolific writer, tutor, essayist, reporter, researcher, librarian, editor, artist and clown.

His literary output had been cultivated upon his researches in ample fields.

He loves to write mostly about the new happenings in his country.

He developed a strong passion for music and writing at the same time at tender age of 11.

His father, an historian, had been his major motivator as he guided him on many onerous aspects of life.

His literary pieces have been published in both national and international magazines, anthologies and journals.

He works as a private lesson tutor in many educational centers and has about 234 students to his credits.

He won the WRR 2020 Contest and his recent poem, “Songs Of Love” was accepted in Ghana and Willi Wash’s site for publication.

Reviewer contact:

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Mr. Taoheed is a Nigerian Correspondent for The Scholar Media Africa. He is an Investigative Journalist living in the Northeast area of Nigeria. He studies Law at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto State. His contact:


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