Cry, the Beloved Country
by Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country Theme of Suffering
What's the first word of the title of this novel? Cry! Any book that is instructing someone (in this case, "the beloved country") to cry with its first word is probably going to be about suffering. There is a ton of suffering in Cry, the Beloved Country, from Kumalo's heartbreak at the destruction of his family to Jarvis's mourning for the death of his only son. Suffering cuts across race to unite people who otherwise live on opposites sides of the book's cultural and economic divides. So, Kumalo and Jarvis's shared suffering provides an unexpected bond between the two of them that not only reminds us of each character's humanity, but that also gives them the strength to think of future reforms and improvements that they can make to prevent such suffering for future generations.
Questions About Suffering
- How does gender relate to displays of suffering in this book? How much insight do we get into the specific suffering of characters like Margaret Jarvis, Absalom's girlfriend, or Kumalo's wife?
- How does suffering influence the morality of different characters in Cry, the Beloved Country? When does suffering encourage greater morality in this book? When does suffering change or diminish a character's moral fiber?
- We have said that the shared loss of their sons brings Kumalo and Jarvis together. What contrasting examples does the book give where suffering drives people apart? Who and why?
Chew on This
While Kumalo and Jarvis use their individual suffering to build greater bonds with one another, the suffering of the oppressed black majority in South Africa creates greater distance between white elites and the black community. Therefore, while suffering in Cry, the Beloved Country can unite people on an individual level, it divides them on a broader national level.
Cry, the Beloved Country's emphasis on forgiveness and love in the face of suffering indicates its strongly Christian moral framework. Paton's emphasis on religion influences the way that this novel treats the larger theme of suffering.