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Character Role Analysis

Stephen Kumalo

By the far the longest part of Cry, the Beloved Country is the first part, when an elderly priest from a small Zulu village goes on a quest through Johannesburg to find his missing sister, brother, and son. And that priest? Is Stephen Kumalo. He's got to be our main character because it is his search for his family—and, once he finds them, his quest for new ways to keep what has happened to the Kumalos from happening to anyone else—that structures the whole book.

Sure, as we said in our "Character Analysis" of Kumalo, he may have about as much sense of city life as a small kitten. But all the same, it is through Kumalo that we receive our own introduction to Johannesburg in the 1940s. Without him, we would be lost in this novel.

James Jarvis

Kumalo may dominate the first and third parts of the novel, but Jarvis takes up most of the second. As Arthur's father and as a privileged white South African, Jarvis makes an interesting equal-but-opposite character to Kumalo: even though the two occupy such different social and economic positions, they still wind up in the same place, helping to reform and renovate Ndotsheni. Jarvis's perspective on the events of Cry, the Beloved Country allows Paton to present a more balanced idea of racial politics in South Africa, from both black and white points of view.