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Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved Country Summary


Here you will find a Cry, the Beloved Country summary (Alan Paton's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Cry, the Beloved Country Summary Overview

In a secluded village of eastern South Africa called Ndotsheni, clergyman Stephen Kumalo gets a letter from a fellow clergyman from Johannesburg, asking him to come help his sickly sister, Gertrude. The letter also implies that his son, Absalom, who left for Johannesburg and has been missing since, might be there. In Johannesburg, Kumalo is hosted by the letter-sending clergyman, Msimangu, and a pious woman, Mrs. Lithebe. Kumalo finds Gertrude leading a life of sin and convinces her to return to Ndotsheni with her young son. He then faces a bigger challenge in finding Absalom. His quest across the city reveals to him the pervasive racial and economic disparities his country is suffering from. During his search, the news breaks that Arthur Jarvis, a white advocate for racial equality, has been murdered. Kumalo and Msimangu discover that Absalom is a suspect, and his arrest and confession confirm Kumalo's greatest fears. Despite admitting to the crime, Absalom asserts that he didn't intend to kill Jarvis and that he had accomplices, including his cousin, Matthew. Kumalo, devastated, arranges for a lawyer and tries to understand how his son ended up in such a situation. When he informs Absalom's pregnant girlfriend about his predicament, she agrees to marry Absalom and live with Kumalo as his daughter-in-law, despite her sorrow. While these events unfold, James Jarvis, father of Arthur, is told about his son's demise and travels to Johannesburg. Reading his son's work on social inequality forces him to reevaluate his prejudices. By coincidence, he and Kumalo meet, and both men express grief over the situation. Absalom's trial ends with his death sentence and acquittal for his alleged accomplices. Kumalo arranges for Absalom's marriage to his girlfriend, bids him goodbye, and he returns to Ndotsheni with his new family, minus Gertrude who has mysteriously disappeared. The loss of tribal bonding among his people distresses Kumalo, a sentiment James Jarvis also shares, and he becomes more involved in helping Ndotsheni, even offering to build a new church. The night before Absalom's execution, Kumalo and Jarvis meet in the mountains, speaking about their lost sons and the hope they see in Jarvis's grandson. Alone, Kumalo mourns his son's fate, praying as dawn breaks over the valley.

chapter 1

A picturesque road meanders seven miles from Ixopo village to Carisbrooke in the hilly Natal province of South Africa. It offers a breathtaking panorama of an enchanting African valley. The valley is alive with indigenous bird melodies and covered in thick, verdant grass. The grass absorbs the plentiful rain and mist, nourishing the many streams. Even the grazing cattle and occasional fires have not damaged this landscape. However, as you move down the hills to the valley, the scene changes drastically. The once green grassland is now a barren red landscape, ravaged by overgrazing and fires. The once gushing streams are now dried up. The red soil, exposed to the elements, gets washed away during rains, resulting in an eerie resemblance to flowing blood and paltry crop yield. This barren land is home to the elderly and some mothers with children, eking out a living from the scarce resources. The young and strong have abandoned these valleys long ago.

chapter 2

Stephen Kumalo, a Zulu pastor, is interrupted by a young girl delivering a letter while he's busy writing. After feeding the girl, he tries to guess who might have sent the letter. Since many of his relatives, including his brother John, his much younger sister Gertrude, and his son Absalom, have been silent since moving to Johannesburg, he's unsure who it could be from as he doesn't recognize the handwriting. His wife comes in and confirms that the letter isn't from their son. With a certain apprehension, she bravely opens and reads the letter. It's from a fellow pastor, Theophilus Msimangu from Johannesburg, who informs them that Gertrude is sick and urges Kumalo to come to the Sophiatown section of the city. When his wife asks about his plans, Kumalo hesitantly asks her to bring him the funds they've saved for Absalom's schooling at St. Chad’s. Holding the money, he's unsure, but his wife points out the futility of their savings since Absalom never returned from Johannesburg. She suggests that he might never come back, which angers Kumalo. Despite his wife's pleas that he's hurting himself with denial, he vehemently refuses to accept her claim. Realizing he's hurting his wife, Kumalo calms down and resigns himself to the sad reality. They decide to use the money saved for St. Chad’s along with their other savings, even giving up funds set aside for new clothes and a stove. After apologizing to his wife for his behavior, Kumalo goes to his church to seek guidance and forgiveness, leaving his wife watching him with a fatigued gaze, a testament to their long-endured hardships.

chapter 3

Kumalo awaits the train to Johannesburg at Carisbrooke, feeling no curiosity for the misty journey that others see as ominous or adventurous. His mind is troubled by worries over his sick sister, the potential cost of her treatment, and the dangers of Johannesburg, particularly the busy roads where a young boy he knew was killed. His most significant worry is his absent son. As the train pulls in, he parts from the friend carrying his luggage. His friend mentions that a man named Sibeko has requested Kumalo to check on his daughter, who went to Johannesburg with a white family and has stopped communicating. Kumalo agrees to do what he can, despite the absence of any fellow passenger from his social class in the non-European carriage. He questions why Sibeko didn't ask him directly, learning that Sibeko is not part of his church. Kumalo argues that they are all one people and should help each other in need. He promises to check on Sibeko’s daughter, falsely claiming to always be busy in Johannesburg to impress his fellow passengers. However, once the train departs, Kumalo's worries resurface. He is anxious about the city, his family, particularly his son, and his feeling of not belonging in his world. Seeking comfort, he turns to his Bible as the train continues towards Johannesburg.

chapter 4

Kumalo's journey to Johannesburg lasts one day and night, taking him across unfamiliar terrains and towns with Afrikaans signs, a language unfamiliar to him. His ride offers a view of South Africa's expansive mines, which his co-travellers, mostly miners, explain. He marvels at the large pulley lifting chunks of rocks, and he continuously mistakes the passing scenery for Johannesburg. His companions humorously correct him and describe the towering buildings of Johannesburg. Upon arrival in Johannesburg, Kumalo navigates the bustling station with caution. The city's chaotic traffic leaves him frozen on the pavement, unable to interpret the traffic signals. A young man, speaking a language Kumalo can't comprehend, offers to guide him to Sophiatown. The young stranger takes Kumalo to the bus stop, asking him to queue for the bus, promising to buy his ticket. Kumalo trusts him with a pound from his limited savings. As the man leaves, Kumalo senses a problem. An older man kindly informs him he's been robbed, and offers to accompany him to Sophiatown. The older man leads Kumalo to Msimangu’s Mission House, where Reverend Msimangu introduces the older man as Mr. Mafolo. After bidding farewell to Mr. Mafolo, Kumalo relaxes with a cigarette, pondering the days ahead.

chapter 5

Msimangu secures a place for Kumalo to stay with Mrs. Lithebe, a devout church woman. Experiencing a modern toilet for the first time, Kumalo is taken aback, as such facilities were unheard of in his village. During a meal at the mission with other priests of varied races, Kumalo's sorrow for his deteriorating village, Ixopo, is visible. While one eager priest is curious to learn more, his duties call him away. The remaining priests provide Kumalo with a glimpse of Johannesburg's issues, where rising crime has instilled fear in the white population. They share news of violence against both whites and blacks. Post-dinner, Msimangu inquires about Gertrude, Kumalo's sister. Kumalo shares that she had moved to Johannesburg with her son to look for her husband. Msimangu dishearteningly reveals that Gertrude has been involved in illicit activities such as selling liquor and prostitution in a crime-ridden part of the city and has even been imprisoned. Her son lives with her in this dangerous environment. Msimangu promises to find information about Absalom, Kumalo's other concern. However, he reveals that Kumalo's brother, John, has turned into a prominent politician with little interest in the church. Msimangu confesses to Kumalo that he bears no hatred towards whites, as one of them had converted his father to Christianity. However, he feels that the whites have disrupted the tribal structure without providing a suitable replacement. He indicates that a few white citizens are striving to better the country for all races but their number is insufficient and they are paralyzed by widespread fear. Msimangu suggests Father Vincent as the person to consult about these matters. Finally, Kumalo retires, reflecting on the drastic change his life has undergone within just forty-eight hours.

chapter 6

Msimangu and Kumalo journey to Gertrude's abode in the grimy slums of Claremont. Msimangu laments the close quarters of the areas, attributing it to the constant strife among unruly gangs. He notes the irony of the dirty streets bearing attractive names and highlights the rampant child neglect due to overcrowded schools. Msimangu maintains a distance as Kumalo approaches Gertrude's residence, marked by an unfamiliar, hostile laughter. Upon meeting, Gertrude initially presents a resentful, anxious front. She admits to her brother that her husband is yet to be found. Kumalo reprimands her for not communicating and demands to see her child. Discovering that she's clueless about the child's whereabouts, he gives her a dressing down and insists on taking her back home. Gertrude's emotional breakdown at the thought of leaving Johannesburg, and her self-admitted unworthiness to return home, soften Kumalo's harsh stance. He forgives her and they pray together. Although Gertrude can't provide Kumalo with any information about his son, she suggests that their nephew, John's son, might know something, having spent time with Absalom. Gertrude's son is brought over by a neighborhood woman. Kumalo instructs Gertrude to gather her belongings while he arranges a room for her at Mrs. Lithebe's. He later comes back with a borrowed truck to pick her up. The successful completion of this first task heartens Kumalo, giving him the sense that his family is being reassembled and his homeland healed.

chapter 7

In his accommodation, Kumalo pens a letter to his spouse while listening to his sister's melodious singing. Soon, Msimangu arrives and escorts Kumalo to his brother John's store. At first, John doesn’t recognize Kumalo but eventually expresses delight at the unexpected visit. Kumalo discovers that John's wife Esther has deserted him and he now has a mistress. John tries to reason his lack of correspondence and requests Kumalo to converse in English. He shares his transformative experiences in Johannesburg that altered his perspective. He feels he was insignificant and oppressed by the chief in the village, but in Johannesburg, he feels liberated. He criticizes the Church for holding black South Africans captive similar to the chief. He passionately expresses his concern about the economic disparity between the mine owners and the miners. He holds a grudge against the church due to the bishop's lavish lifestyle. John's commitment to his ex-wife is questioned by Msimangu. Kumalo interferes before John could answer and John’s mistress serves them tea in silence. Kumalo admits that John's words disturb him due to their bitter truth. He informs John about finding Gertrude and enquires about Absalom. John is clueless about the whereabouts of Absalom and his own son, but recalls they were employed at a textile factory. En route to the factory, Msimangu acknowledges the veracity in John's words, emphasizing that John is a significant figure among the black community in Johannesburg. However, he believes that John is not as brave as he claims to be, and notes the corrupting influence of power. Upon reaching the factory, they learn from the white managers that Absalom hasn't been employed for a year. They meet an acquaintance of Absalom, who reveals that he used to reside with Mrs. Ndlela in Sophiatown. They locate Mrs. Ndlela, who informs them that Absalom shifted to Alexandra. Msimangu, noticing Mrs. Ndlela’s pity for Kumalo, learns from her that Absalom had been associating with a bad crowd.

chapter 8

Msimangu and Kumalo start their journey to Alexandra by bus, but they're intercepted by Dubula, a significant black leader. He informs them of the bus boycott due to a fare hike and convinces them to complete the journey by foot. They're given a lift part of the way by a sympathetic white driver. During their walk, Msimangu shares that blacks are allowed property ownership in Alexandra but the high crime rate has led to calls for its destruction. He shares stories of violence against whites, concluding with a touching tale of a black couple rescuing a white woman, a rape victim. He maintains, though, that Alexandra has more positive than negative aspects. Upon reaching Absalom's residence, they find the current occupant, Mrs. Mkize, very fearful. She only discloses that Absalom left a year ago. Sensing her apprehension, Msimangu instructs Kumalo to leave, and he returns to Mrs. Mkize. After promising to keep her secret, she confesses that Absalom and John’s son would frequently return late at night with money and various items. Mrs. Mkize also reveals their association with a local taxi driver, Hlabeni. Msimangu employs Hlabeni to drive them back to Johannesburg, asking about Absalom's location. Frightened, Hlabeni admits the boys are now residing in Orlando's shantytown. On their drive back, they observe many blacks walking due to the bus boycott, while several white drivers offer lifts. Msimangu is particularly awed by a defiant white driver who challenges the police, echoing his brave cry of “take me to court.”

chapter 9

Shanty Town is depicted as a place teeming with people from all corners of the country, flocking to Johannesburg. The housing situation is dire with long waiting lists and limited space in Alexandra, Sophiatown, and Orlando. Overcrowded homes become boarding houses, with many people squeezed into small spaces. Privacy is rare and tensions are high. Bribery might give someone a home, but nothing is certain. The war in Europe and North Africa has tied up funds intended for housing. Dubula's influence sparks a housing revolution among the homeless. They resort to stealing construction materials from plantations, train stations, and mines. Near Orlando's railroad tracks, a makeshift city springs up, made from poles, sacks, and grass. There's a small weekly fee to Dubula's committee. Despite the cramped and damp conditions of Shanty Town, it’s a refuge for many. The death of a feverish child at night prompts state intervention, with new houses built for Shanty Town's inhabitants as Dubula had promised. Another wave of people arrives, setting up more ramshackle homes. This time, the state responds with hostility, and the police force these people to return to their original homes. A handful stay behind, observing the government-built homes and waiting for their turn to settle in.

chapter 10

While waiting to visit Shanty Town, Kumalo spends time with his sister Gertrude and her young boy. They find solace in each other's company and Mrs. Lithebe becomes a friend to Gertrude. In Shanty Town, in search of Absalom, Kumalo and Msimangu consult a nurse who directs them to Mrs. Hlatshwayo, Absalom's host. She tells them Absalom went to the reformatory, prompting Msimangu to comfort Kumalo with positive reviews he's heard about the place. Kumalo questions Msimangu about his conversation with Mrs. Mkize, Absalom's former landlady, revealing that Absalom and John's son often returned late with items belonging to white people. In the reformatory, they learn from a helpful young white man that Absalom was a model reformed student who left a month ago due to his age and good behavior. He had a frequent visitor, his pregnant girlfriend. The young man offers to take them to Pimville, Absalom's new location, where he's supposedly saving money for his upcoming marriage. Arriving at Absalom's Pimville home, his young girlfriend informs them he left a few days earlier and hasn't returned. An inquiry from Kumalo about her plans is interrupted by Msimangu's harsh words, suggesting Kumalo can't fix her situation. Despite Kumalo's reminder that she's carrying his grandchild, Msimangu questions Absalom's fidelity. The young man notifies them about Absalom's extended absence from work before leaving them at the Orlando gates. There, Msimangu apologizes for his harsh words, and Kumalo forgives him, requesting Msimangu to accompany him back to the girl.

chapter 11

Kumalo agrees to Msimangu's suggestion of a short break while Msimangu visits Ezenzeleni, a home for the blind. A peaceful evening follows at the Mission House with Father Vincent, where Kumalo shares tales of Natal and Father Vincent discusses his homeland, England. The calm atmosphere is disrupted by another priest bearing a newspaper. The headline reveals the murder of Arthur Jarvis, a white engineer and advocate for black South African rights. The article mentions that Jarvis was at home nursing a cold when unknown assailants attacked his servant and killed him. The police have no leads yet, but they wish to interrogate the unconscious servant. It's mentioned that Jarvis was writing an article titled "The Truth About Native Crime" at the time of his murder. He is survived by his wife and two kids, a son aged nine and a daughter aged five. Arthur, whom Kumalo remembers as a smart, young boy, lived on a farm that could be seen from Ndotsheni. He suddenly feels an unexplainable dread. Msimangu attempts to comfort him by stating that the chance of Absalom being connected to the murder is slim. Despite this, Kumalo is too overwhelmed and fatigued to even pray.

chapter 12

Amidst South Africa's violence, the splendor of the nation is overshadowed, says a commentator. Amidst a chorus of suggestions, opinions are divided on how to improve the situation. Some suggest an increase in police presence while others believe granting black Africans more rights would decrease crime. The idea of building more schools in black areas is proposed, despite critics claiming education may make criminals smarter. The effectiveness of the pass laws, which necessitate native South Africans to carry permits in white areas, is debated, with critics arguing they unjustly imprison innocent individuals. Proposed solutions range from greater segregation to increased education and opportunities. The only agreement is the prevailing fear among the white population. In the meantime, Mrs. Ndlela informs Msimangu about the police's search for Absalom, and that she directed them to Mrs. Mkize. Msimangu, accompanied by Kumalo, retraces their steps in search of Absalom. They start with Mrs. Mkize, move onto Shanty Town, and visit the reformatory school where they are informed that the young man appears to be troubled. Their final stop is Alexandra, where Absalom’s girlfriend reveals that the police visited her but she doesn't know the reason why. A local woman discloses that the police appear frustrated. The situation is universally agreed to be serious. Kumalo spends more money on a taxi and they commence a grave journey to Ezenzeleni.

chapter 13

Kumalo and Msimangu journey to Ezenzeleni, a haven where white residents look after blind black inhabitants. While Msimangu is busy with his duties, Kumalo reflects in solitude. He is weighed down by the thought of his grandson's illegitimate birth, his son's kleptomania, and the homicide, but feels hopeful about going back to Ndotsheni with a newfound modesty. However, his optimism fades as he concludes that the tribal traditions are gone forever. Msimangu discovers Kumalo in a despondent state and reminds him that falling into despair is sinful. Kumalo finds solace in the assistance provided to Ezenzeleni's blind residents and is particularly moved by Msimangu's animated sermon. He understands Msimangu's message - that God will not abandon humanity. Though some question Msimangu's choice to encourage patience when his people are perishing, Kumalo leaves feeling spiritually rejuvenated.

chapter 14

Gertrude's belongings, the last traces of her old life, are sold at a substantial profit, but Kumalo is filled with dread when he sees Msimangu approaching Mrs. Lithebe's residence with a young man from a correctional facility. The man confirms Kumalo's worst fears—his son Absalom is imprisoned for the killing of Arthur Jarvis, and it was Absalom who fired the lethal shot. John's son was also involved in the crime, prompting Kumalo to inform his brother. Crushed by the news, John accompanies Kumalo to the mission, where Father Vincent extends his support. The young man from the correctional facility guides them to the jail. Upon meeting in the prison visiting room, Absalom avoids eye contact with his father. He shifts uncomfortably, blaming his criminal actions on bad influences and the devil, much to Kumalo's disapproval. Upon being chastised by the young man for disregarding the correctional facility's teachings, Absalom breaks down. He admits to shooting Jarvis, explaining it was out of fear, and asserts his intention to marry his girlfriend. Outside the prison, Kumalo encounters John again, but this time, John is no longer despairing. He plans on hiring a lawyer for his son, arguing there's no solid evidence his son was at the murder scene. In contrast, John coldly tells Kumalo that his son's guilt is undeniable and beyond help. The young man, disappointed by Absalom, declines to offer advice to Kumalo, fervently stating the importance of his work at the correctional facility. As he drives away, John departs on his own, leaving Kumalo alone. Kumalo determines Father Vincent to be his only beacon of hope.

chapter 15

The reformatory officer returns to express regret for his previous harsh words, advising Kumalo to get a lawyer to counter John's probable false claims about his son's involvement and to argue that Absalom shot out of fear. Together, Kumalo and the officer visit Father Vincent who assures them he has a suitable lawyer in mind and will assist with Absalom's pending marriage. On the departure of the officer, Kumalo pours out his heart to Father Vincent, distressed by their ignorance about their son's life in Johannesburg and the fact that they only learned about his troubles when it was already too late. He also expresses his pain over Absalom's seeming lack of guilt. Father Vincent sympathizes with Kumalo's pain, reminding him that his current sorrow has at least replaced his fear, and there's still a chance for Absalom to express remorse for his grave misdeeds. Kumalo experiences a rare wave of bitterness, but Father Vincent doesn't permit him to stay in that state. He urges Kumalo to maintain his faith rituals, emphasizing that genuine belief will eventually return.

chapter 16

Kumalo, now familiar with Johannesburg, visits Absalom's girlfriend in Pimville by himself. Completely unaware of Absalom's situation, she is heartbroken when she learns the news from Kumalo. She assures Kumalo that she still wants to marry Absalom, although she appears unsure. She shares her troubled past with Kumalo, explaining that her mother's alcoholism caused her father to leave. Her discomfort with her mother's new boyfriend led her to leave home. Despite her young age, she has had three lovers since her departure, all of whom she refers to as "husbands" and are now in jail. Kumalo, infuriated by her sexual history, startlingly asks if she would consider him as a lover, to which she responds affirmatively out of fear and confusion. Kumalo is taken aback by her response and in shame, hides his face in his hands, triggering her to break down. Regretting his actions, Kumalo consoles her and proposes that she move back with him to Ndotsheni and become a part of his family. Overwhelmed by his offer, she expresses her desire for a peaceful life and accepts. Finding joy in the moment, Kumalo shares a laugh with her. Before leaving to arrange her new accommodation, he insists that she promise to express any second thoughts about her decision.

chapter 17

While Gertrude and Mrs. Lithebe share a cordial relationship, Mrs. Lithebe is troubled by Gertrude's reckless nature and her overt friendliness with unknown men. Notwithstanding, she holds a high regard for Kumalo, and welcomes Absalom’s girlfriend into her home. Overjoyed by her response, Kumalo enjoys some playful moments with his nephew. Absalom’s girlfriend settles in, displaying appropriate decorum. However, Mrs. Lithebe is displeased when she stumbles upon Gertrude and Absalom’s girlfriend sharing a laugh she disapproves of. She instructs Absalom’s girlfriend not to indulge in such laughter, to which she readily agrees. Gertrude persists with her peculiar behavior, though she now avoids Absalom’s girlfriend. Kumalo pays a visit to Absalom, who reveals that his friends are denying their presence with him in the house. Over time, Absalom concurs with his father about the disloyalty of his friends. Despite this, Absalom is excited about having a lawyer, vowing to Kumalo that he will be entirely truthful with him. He is also pleased with the arrangements made for his girlfriend. As Kumalo leaves, he encounters Absalom’s lawyer, a noble white man with the demeanor of a “chief.” Subsequent to this, Mr. Carmichael, the lawyer, meets Kumalo at the mission house. He informs Kumalo that Absalom's defense will be grounded on truth, requiring ample details about Absalom’s personality. After Mr. Carmichael departs, Kumalo worries about the legal expenses, only to be informed by Father Vincent that Mr. Carmichael will handle the case pro deo, or “for God”, implying he will not charge any fee for the case.

chapter 18

High Place, owned by a white farmer named James Jarvis, overlooks the lush valleys and green grass of Natal's hills. Jarvis, who is also the father of the late Arthur Jarvis, yearns for rain on his parched lands. Below, Ndotsheni's hills lay dry and desolate due to excessive farming. Jarvis contemplates possible solutions. He wishes the locals would learn farming, and the educated ones would remain to assist their community rather than fleeing to the city. His own son Arthur left the farm to be an engineer in Johannesburg, a choice he respects. Upon spotting a police car from his vantage point on a ridge, Jarvis suspects it's driven by Afrikaners, white South Africans of Dutch origin. Despite his English heritage, he appreciates the local Afrikaners. Policemen, van Jaarsveld and Binnendyk, deliver the devastating news of Arthur's murder. They propose to take Jarvis to Johannesburg immediately, which he agrees to. While one officer organizes the flight, Jarvis informs his wife of their son's death, resulting in her emotional breakdown.

chapter 19

Mr. Jarvis and his wife arrive in Johannesburg, where they're welcomed by John Harrison, their son's brother-in-law. They meet their daughter-in-law Mary along with her mother and father at their house before heading to the morgue. During the journey, John Harrison shares with Jarvis about Arthur's advocacy work on behalf of the native people, a cause that his father-in-law, Mr. Harrison, didn't fully understand or support. After viewing Arthur's remains, they return to the Harrison household. Here, Mr. Harrison reveals to Jarvis that the community has been expressing deep condolences, even from high-ranking officials like the prime minister and mayor. Moreover, Arthur was multilingual, an advocate for the miners' housing conditions despite jeopardizing his job, and some even wanted him to serve in parliament. Despite differing political beliefs, Jarvis is deeply moved by the appreciation his son garnered and his unyielding courage. Back in his room, Jarvis shares these stories with his wife, stating his regret for not knowing more about his son when he was alive. Later that night, he falls asleep in his wife's arms, haunted by the mystery of why his son was brutally murdered.

chapter 20

Jarvis, while examining the contents of his deceased son's home, realizes that Arthur was an admirer of Abraham Lincoln. He discovers a correspondence from a boys’ club in Claremont addressed to Arthur and a partial article penned by his son. Through the article, Arthur criticizes the unfair treatment of black South Africans. The unjust practices include exploiting them for mine work, disrupting their family life by not providing accommodation for their families, denying them access to education, and dismantling the tribal system without establishing a new ethical structure. Intrigued by his son’s views, Jarvis takes a copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address from among his son’s possessions. He eventually leaves the house, passing through the hallway where his son met his end.

chapter 21

Arthur's burial is attended by a diverse crowd, marking Jarvis's first instance of interacting closely with black individuals. Following the service, he converses with Mr. Harrison. While Harrison thirsts for vengeance on Arthur's killer, Jarvis feels it's premature for such thoughts. Harrison continues to complain about the escalating troubles in South Africa, blaming the natives for rising crime rates and increasing demands for better pay. John also joins the conversation, causing Harrison to rage against both white Afrikaners and black South Africans for allegedly depleting the nation's resources. Subsequently, John offers to introduce Jarvis to the boys' club, after which Jarvis retires. The next day, Harrison informs Jarvis that Arthur's servant, who has just regained consciousness, has identified the murderer as a previous garden boy of the Jarvises. This information means the investigation can finally progress. Harrison hands Jarvis Arthur's unfinished manuscript that criticises those who perceive black people as mere unskilled laborers, as anti-Christian. The manuscript also questions the Christian legitimacy of European rule in South Africa. Jarvis is profoundly affected by this and, along with his wife, mourns the untimely end of Arthur's life and his unfinished work.

chapter 22

The courtroom segregates Europeans and non-Europeans during Absalom's trial. Judges, though respected by all races, frequently apply unfair laws established by white people. Absalom's co-defendants deny guilt, while Absalom's counsel pushes for a plea of "culpable homicide" - implying no intent to murder Arthur Jarvis. The court denies this, forcing Absalom to plead not guilty. Matthew, John's son, and Johannes Pafuri display shock and sadness as Absalom reveals his account. Johannes, Absalom says, orchestrated the burglary after receiving a divine instruction. At Arthur's home, Johannes demanded valuables from Arthur's servant. When the servant raised alarm, Johannes struck him with an iron rod. Arthur came across the robbers, and a terrified Absalom shot him. The accomplices then fled. Absalom clarifies he had the revolver for self-defense, and Johannes carried the supposedly blessed iron bar. The judge then questions if Absalom's father would bless such a tool. Absalom proceeds with his narrative, describing how he retreated to Mrs. Mkize's house, united with his accomplices, and concealed his revolver in a plantation. He maintains that anyone contradicting this account is deceitful. He prayed for mercy afterwards, then roamed Johannesburg the subsequent day and eventually found refuge in a friend's residence in Germiston. When the police came asking about Johannes, Absalom confessed to shooting Jarvis and pointed out where the firearm was hidden. He had planned to confess sooner but delayed, realizing his error when the police appeared. The court adjourns and Kumalo spots Jarvis. He remains silent, believing nothing he says could make a difference.

chapter 23

The trial doesn't attract much attention as news of gold discovery at Odendaalsrust dominates the headlines. The stock exchange is buzzing with excitement and there's chatter about a new city akin to Johannesburg. Prior to this, the land was unused, but now, thanks to engineers, the stock prices are skyrocketing. English folks bemoan the Afrikaans names given to these engineering wonders, and lament the Afrikaners' inability to see the futility of a bilingual state. However, they refrain from voicing their thoughts for the sake of unity. The narrative is momentarily taken over by a reserved voice that points out some philanthropists' desire to use the newfound profits to support social services or increase miners' salaries. This voice also mentions a peculiar priest named Father Beresford and others, who, despite their lack of financial stability, are articulate. The voice criticizes their cloudy thinking and condemns the baseless accusations of greed leveled against Johannesburg's inhabitants, many of whom donate to charities and are avid art collectors. A more progressive voice emerges, lauding Sir Ernest Oppenheimer's proposal to accommodate entire families in village-like settings in the new mines, rather than cramming male workers into crowded compounds. The voice emphasizes that wealth isn't everything, and the world doesn't need another Johannesburg.

chapter 24

Jarvis discovers an article within Arthur's home, titled “Private Essay on the Evolution of a South African.” Arthur's piece reveals his upbringing filled with lessons about honor, charity, and generosity, yet devoid of knowledge about his homeland, South Africa. This realization pains Jarvis, almost provoking him to leave. However, he remains to finish reading Arthur's essay. Arthur's future would be dedicated to truth and justice for his country. This pursuit does not stem from extraordinary bravery, but a desire to reconcile the contradictions in his life. His ambition is to foster the same feeling in his children. Jarvis is deeply affected by Arthur's words and spends a significant time in contemplation. When he finally departs, he confidently walks through the blood-soaked area where Arthur was murdered, a sight that no longer holds him captive. He exits through the front door.

chapter 25

Jarvis and his spouse visit their cherished niece, Barbara Smith. As the ladies take a town trip, Jarvis stays back to read on crime and the gold rush in the newspaper. A surprise knock on the door reveals a raggedy black clergyman. The sight of Jarvis seems to unsettle the clergyman, causing him to tremble and sit on the step. Jarvis grapples with mixed feelings of annoyance and pity, assisting the parson with his hat and stick as he rises and gathers his documents. The clergyman reveals he came to check on a friend's daughter working in the house. Jarvis directs him to the native servant, then recognizes the man as the clergyman from his native Ndotsheni, known as the “umfundisi” in Zulu. He allows the umfundisi to wait for the house mistress and questions why he is fearful of him. The clergyman, who is indeed Kumalo but doesn't disclose his identity, confesses that his son killed Arthur Jarvis. Jarvis, visibly impacted, takes a garden walk to compose himself. On his return, he tells Kumalo that he bears no grudge. They reminisce about Arthur's childhood and Kumalo expresses his sorrow at the Jarvis family's tragedy. On her return, Mrs. Smith informs Kumalo via Jarvis that the girl he was searching for was dismissed after an arrest for brewing liquor and her whereabouts are unknown. After Kumalo departs, Jarvis's perturbed state prompts his wife to inquire about the reason, to which he vaguely refers to a visit from the past.

chapter 26

John Kumalo gives a commanding speech to a crowd, voicing the need for newly discovered gold wealth to be distributed to the miners. His fellow activists, Dubula and Tomlinson, listen resentfully, for they believe his powerful voice lacks courage and wisdom. Amidst the cheer of the crowd, the white policemen propose that John be incarcerated or eliminated. But the narrator notes that John, who thrives on applause, has no desire to become a martyr in prison. As his speech concludes, he claims not to want trouble with the police. Among the audience are Stephen Kumalo and Msimangu. While Kumalo admires John's oratory skills, Msimangu is suspicious, questioning why such a gift of speech was given to a man of little courage. However, he is glad John is not brave, fearing his words could incite violence if paired with action. Afterward, they proceed to hear Tomlinson's speech. Meanwhile, Jarvis and John Harrison, who were also present at the meeting, depart, with Jarvis expressing distaste for such events. A police captain, discussing the event with his officer, labels John Kumalo as a threat, highlighting the influence of his voice. The officer expresses interest in listening to John's speech, and they ponder over the possibility of a strike, which the officer believes could be problematic. The narrator resumes to mention rumors of the strike expanding to other labor sectors, causing some white people to reflect on their reliance on black labor. Ultimately, the strike has minimal impact. Despite some disturbance at the mines and the death of three black miners, the strike fails to escalate. A clergyman raises the issue of black laborers at a religious conference, but the subject is generally avoided. The narrative closes with the remark that everything is calm, but one voice contradicts, stating that true silence does not exist and only the ignorant are silent.

chapter 27

Mrs. Lithebe chastises Gertrude once more for her careless behavior, which Gertrude blames on her time in Johannesburg. In the midst of this, a local arrives bearing news of another white man's murder by a native, stirring concern for Absalom's situation. To shield Kumalo from the distressing news, Msimangu and Mrs. Lithebe opt for dinner at her place rather than the mission. The group attends church where they hear a woman's tale of choosing the life of a nun. Gertrude, inspired, later confides in Mrs. Lithebe her thoughts of becoming a nun, a notion that Mrs. Lithebe welcomes. Gertrude approaches Absalom's girlfriend with a request to care for her son if she does take on religious life, to which she agrees. All the while, Gertrude hopes this potential path might steer her away from her reckless ways.

chapter 28

The verdict on Absalom's case is given by the judge. Although Arthur's servant recognizes Johannes as a part of the break-in, the evidence isn't strong enough to convict him. The judge expresses doubt about Absalom’s testimony, suspecting he may have blamed his accomplices to lessen his own guilt. As such, Johannes and Matthew are acquitted, but the judge hopes for a deeper investigation into their past crimes. The focus then moves to Absalom. The judge admits Absalom's remorse, truthful testimony, and youth are notable but insists on enforcing the law, regardless of its flaws. Absalom’s act of carrying a loaded gun and the injury to the servant demonstrate a will to kill, leading the judge to rule Absalom guilty of murder. With no unique reasons for leniency, Absalom is condemned to die by hanging. Only the governor-general-in-council has the power to decrease his sentence. The young man from the reformatory, present at the trial, disregards the racial segregation in the courtroom to assist Kumalo in leaving.

chapter 29

Father Vincent, Kumalo, Gertrude, Msimangu, and Absalom's significant other visit the prison for Absalom's wedding. After the ceremony, Absalom bids his father a final farewell, leaving behind his savings and possessions for his child's welfare. Kumalo expresses his resentment towards Matthew and Johannes who abandoned Absalom. The time comes for Absalom's departure and he breaks down in fear of his impending death. Outside, Absalom's new wife happily addresses Kumalo as her father, but he is too preoccupied to engage. Kumalo visits his brother to bid him farewell. After some awkward conversation, John expresses his plans to reemploy Matthew once everything settles down. In an attempt to warn John about the potential dangers of his political involvement, Kumalo fabricates a story about a spy reporting on John's secret political discussions. This brings out a fear in John, but he dismisses Kumalo angrily. Kumalo leaves, disheartened by his unsuccessful attempt to caution John about the perils of power. The Jarvises say goodbye to the Harrisons, who express their agreement on the sentencing, wishing the same for the other two men. Jarvis hands John Harrison a donation of a thousand pounds for the boys' club founded by John and Arthur. There is a goodbye party for Kumalo at Mrs. Lithebe’s place. Msimangu announces his decision to give up his possessions and live as a monk, gifting Kumalo his savings amounting to over thirty-three pounds. Overwhelmed by this gesture, Kumalo resolves to apologize to John for his earlier behavior. The next day, he wakes up Absalom's wife for their journey to Ndotsheni, only to discover that Gertrude has disappeared, leaving behind her clothes and child.

chapter 30

Kumalo, accompanied by Absalom's pregnant wife and Gertrude's son, returns to Ndotsheni and is warmly welcomed. The locals express their joy at having their spiritual leader back but share concerns about the crippling drought affecting their crops. Kumalo learns about the return of the Jarvises and the villagers' knowledge of Absalom's crime. Upon reaching his church, Kumalo finds his followers waiting and leads them in prayer. He prays for rainfall, the acceptance of Absalom's wife and Gertrude's son, and seeks forgiveness for Gertrude and Absalom. After the service, Kumalo confides in his friend about Gertrude and Absalom's troubles, asking him to disseminate the information given it is bound to come out soon. Although he fears his disgrace might hinder his leadership, his friend reassures him. When asked about Sibeko's daughter, Kumalo admits the girl is lost. After wishing Absalom's wife a good night, Kumalo spends the evening discussing Msimangu's generous gift and other solemn issues with his wife.

chapter 31

Kumalo hopes for the revival of his village and meets the village chief. However, he isn't convinced by the chief's hopefulness, as it's obvious that the white men have stripped the chiefs of their power, leaving them as mere symbols. The chief, though worried about the young villagers leaving for Johannesburg, has no fresh ideas for change. The discussion ends with the chief's sorrowful decision to address these problems with the local magistrate again. Kumalo also speaks with the school headmaster, but is skeptical of his theoretical teachings about farming, which seem impractical and do nothing to stop the valley from drying or the children from perishing. Kumalo, amidst his sorrows, encounters Arthur's son on horseback. The boy is living with his grandfather and greets Kumalo with unusual courtesy, requesting to visit his home. He asks for milk, but there's none in Ndotsheni. When he questions what children do without milk, Kumalo informs him that some children are succumbing. The young boy tries his hand at Zulu with Kumalo and then departs. That night, a worker from Jarvis's farm arrives with milk for all small children in Ndotsheni. Kumalo is so moved by this unexpected gesture, he laughs until he aches.

chapter 32

Kumalo's home receives four letters. The one from Mr. Carmichael announces that Absalom will not be pardoned and is scheduled for execution that month. Another letter from Absalom to his parents speaks of his comfort in Pretoria prison, his interactions with a priest, and his acceptance of his fate. He also expresses his realization of belonging to Ndotsheni. The third letter is for Absalom's wife, while the fourth one from Msimangu prompts Kumalo to feel an unexpected longing for Johannesburg. In due time, the much-anticipated storm that will end the drought arrives. Kumalo observes Jarvis and the magistrate arrive in Ndotsheni to plant flagged sticks. The village chief is tasked to ensure no one disturbs the flags. After sharing rumors about Jarvis's supposed insanity and bankruptcy, the magistrate departs, leaving Jarvis to take measurements of the land. As the storm approaches, Jarvis takes cover in Kumalo’s church. Under Kumalo’s leaky ceiling, Jarvis inquires about Absalom’s mercy plea. After reading Mr. Carmichael's letter, Jarvis empathizes with Kumalo’s sorrow. When the storm subsides, the villagers inspect the flagged sticks with intrigue. A brief chaos ensues when a child dislodges one, leading the entire village to reinsert the stick and hide any signs of its displacement.

chapter 33

Gossip circulates about a dam construction in Ndotsheni marked by sticks. Absalom's wife and Gertrude's son quickly adapt to their new residence. Arthur’s son visits Kumalo once more to better his Zulu. He will depart for Johannesburg once his grandfather returns from Pietermaritzburg. Kumalo remarks the boy's departure will make Ndotsheni less vibrant. Arthur's son learns new Zulu vocabulary and their roots from Kumalo. The boy amazes Kumalo's wife with his Zulu fluency. The sight of Jarvis's car climbing the hill excites Arthur's son who races after it to greet his returning grandfather. A young black man, Napoleon Letsitsi, introduces himself to Kumalo in his church. Letsitsi, employed by Jarvis as an agri-specialist, plans to teach improved farming practices. During his work, he'll reside with the Kumalos. Letsitsi foresees challenges, like convincing locals to farm for the collective benefit, not individual gain, and to reduce cattle rearing that harms the land. Letsitsi confirms the dam rumors. Arthur's son bids Kumalo farewell, pledging to maintain his Zulu studies during holidays.

chapter 34

While Kumalo's church prepares for a religious service, news arrives that Jarvis's wife, Margaret, has passed away. Amidst the mourning, Kumalo pens a sympathetic note to Jarvis, attributing Margaret's influence to Jarvis's generosity towards their village. He wrestles with the guilt of Arthur's murder and its possible impact on her health before ultimately deciding to dispatch the letter, trusting in Jarvis's steadfastness. During the religious service, rain seeps into the church, drenching those in attendance. Post-service, Kumalo and the Bishop discuss privately. Because Kumalo's son murdered Jarvis's offspring and fathered a child out of wedlock, the Bishop advises Kumalo to relocate, where his past won't follow him. Despite his disappointment, Kumalo accepts the Bishop's reasoning and consents. However, a reply from Jarvis arrives just in time, expressing gratitude for Kumalo's condolences and denying any connection between his wife's death and Arthur's murder. Jarvis also expresses his intention to construct a new church for Ndotsheni. Overjoyed, Kumalo shares the letter with the Bishop, who sees it as divine intervention and agrees that Kumalo should remain in Ndotsheni. Kumalo returns home to discover his parishioners, led by his wife, diligently preparing a condolence wreath for the Jarvis family. He assigns a local to gather suitable flowers for a wreath befitting the family's status.

chapter 35

Napoleon Letsitsi, an agricultural expert, introduces the community to modern farming methods and designs a kraal for the livestock. The locals are motivated, though those who lost their land are still bitter. Letsitsi shares his vision of a future with Kumalo, hoping the villagers will discern the value of these transformations without requiring persuasion. Kumalo admires Letsitsi's efforts, but Letsitsi is anxious about the pace of progress. He talks about a future when they won't depend on the white man's milk but can produce their own. This unsettles Kumalo, but Letsitsi remains firm. He acknowledges his gratitude towards Jarvis and other benevolent white men, but clarifies that his allegiance is to Africa, not to those who fund his salary. He blames the need for these reforms on the white man's policies, considering these efforts as restitution for a long-overdue debt. Letsitsi, however, confirms to Kumalo that his intentions are not to cause unrest. Kumalo warns Letsitsi about the dangers of hatred and power, pleased to see that Letsitsi is not drawn to either. Kumalo contemplates the stars, realizing that these progressive politics have arrived late in his life. He accepts that some may label him a white man's dog, but he is content with the life he has lived and the contributions he has made.

chapter 36

Before his son Absalom's impending execution, Kumalo retreats to his usual spot atop a mountain for reflection. He encounters Jarvis during his journey who updates him about the forthcoming church plans and expresses gratitude for the sympathy wreath. They share memories of Arthur and his son. After learning of Kumalo's destination, Jarvis extends his understanding. Kumalo expresses his gratitude to Jarvis for his help in the village and acknowledges Jarvis' divine touch. In his secluded spot, Kumalo revisits Absalom's letters from jail, where Absalom yearns to return to Ndotsheni. Kumalo seeks forgiveness for his sins and expresses his gratitude for the blessings amid hardships. He contemplates the suffering of others— the absent Gertrude, the people of Shanty Town, his wife, and most importantly, Absalom. Kumalo reflects on Africa's distress and Msimangu's concern that love and hatred might arrive too late. He awakens before dawn, pondering his son's thoughts before his execution. As the sun rises, the narration questions when South Africa will see the light of freedom.

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