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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Race

It's hard to imagine a book published in South Africa in 1948—the first official year of apartheid—that wouldn't deal with questions of race; race would have been everywhere in South African so...

Religion

In the classic Peanuts Halloween special, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, deeply neurotic character Linus says, "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion,...

Freedom and Confinement

There are a lot of literal traps in this book: Absalom winds up in prison for murder, Gertrude and the other black African residents of Johannesburg are only allowed to live in certain parts of the...

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....

Family

Okay, please bear with us for a second through this comparison: we think that family in Cry, the Beloved Country is like plankton. Plankton are tiny shrimp and other mini-creatures that float in th...

The Home

Cry, the Beloved Country spends a lot of time beautifully describing the valley of the Umzimkulu River, where Kumalo and his family originally come from. A lot of the action of the book is also foc...

Contrasting Regions: The Countryside and Johannesburg

Johannesburg is the biggest city in South Africa. Ndotsheni is a tiny (fictional) village. Johannesburg has a diverse population (even though they are kept segregated). Ndotsheni is primarily Zulu....

Politics

Cry, the Beloved Country doesn't just show us the problems that it sees with 1940s South Africa. It also gives several models for possible ways forward to bridge the divide between black and white...

Power

Since Cry, the Beloved Country is a book about racial injustice, questions of power come up all the time. While many of the well-meaning white characters in the book use their power in positive way...
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