Cry, the Beloved Country

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Cry, the Beloved Country Book III, Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Stephen knows that Ndotsheni needs help. He prays, but he knows that it’s not enough, so he goes to the chief. He feels wise enough from his experiences in Johannesburg to advise the chief on this issue. As he walks to see the chief, he observes how the drought has brutalized the land.
Stephen attempts to go to some of the authority figures in the community to try and solve some of its problems. He seems to feel more urgency based on the degradation he saw in Johannesburg.
Themes
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
When Stephen speaks with the chief, Stephen explains that he thinks it would be best for their community if they found a way to retain their working people, by teaching people how to care for the earth. The chief assures Stephen that such things are already being taught in school, in a way that suggests this is the final word on the matter. Stephen resists, and points out that everywhere, people are dying. The chief says that he will discuss the issue with the magistrate, but it is clear that he has little authority, and one has little power when ruling over a “broken tribe.”
The destruction of the tribe means that the power of the chief is limited. The chief himself also seems to feel, much like the people in Johannesburg, that the problems of Ixopo are too big for him to fix. And so he does nothing.
Themes
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
Next, Stephen visits the school’s headmaster. The headmaster politely gives Stephen a perfunctory lecture about why people do not stay in Ndotsheni, and explains there was nothing he or the school can do. Stephen leaves feeling dejected. He returns home and prays for Ndotsheni.
Similarly, the school’s leader doesn’t have any good solutions. Stephen turns to prayer.
Themes
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Christian Faith Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
Stephen hears the sound of a horse, and when he goes outside, he sees a small boy riding a horse. The boy is polite and begins to speak to Stephen. He asks if he can see the inside of Stephen’s house. Stephen invites him inside. Stephen knows who the boy is—he recognizes the son of Arthur Jarvis, grandson of James Jarvis. The boy asks for ice-cold milk, and when Stephen explains that they have neither milk nor fridges, the boy asks for water. The boy begins to ask Stephen what certain words are in Zulu, and Stephen gives him a small lesson. The boy asks why there is no milk there, and Stephen explains that the community is poor, and there has been a drought. The boy says that he understands, and rides home.
Though he does not realize it yet, Stephen’s prayer has been answered as James Jarvis’s grandson approaches. After he speaks with Stephen, the boy understands some of the problems plaguing the community, and leaves to inform his grandfather, and presumably beg him to make it right. There is a suggestion here that the solutions to the complex problems of South Africa can only come about through faith—faith in God but also faith in each other, across racial lines. Segregation, the enforced separation of the races, it should be noted, is the opposite of faith. It is the abandonment of faith.
Themes
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Christian Faith Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
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That night, as they’re eating dinner, a man comes by with milk for the children, sent by James Jarvis. Stephen is beside himself with astonishment and happiness.
Though it is a superficial solution to the larger problem, it is an immediate solution to the immediate problem of the drought and lack of milk. The bond forged between James and Stephen, a white man and a black man bound by both a murder but also mutual care and understanding, can solve problems, re-knit what had been ripped and broken.
Themes
Christian Faith Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon