Cry, the Beloved Country

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Cry, the Beloved Country Characters

Stephen Kumalo

A black parson, and one of the novel’s protagonists. Stephen is a religious man who has spent his entire life in his rural community, for which he cares very deeply. He is humble, devout, and… (read full character analysis)

James Jarvis

– A white farmer, and the novel’s other protagonist. James is the father of Arthur, murdered by Stephen Kumalo’s son Absalom. He struggles with the fact that, like Stephen, he does not… (read full character analysis)

Absalom Kumalo

Stephen Kumalo’s son. Absalom is led astray by Johannesburg and the people with whom he associated, leading to his accidental murder of Arthur Jarvis during a botched robbery. Absalom is found guilty of… (read full character analysis)

Arthur Jarvis

– The man murdered by Absalom Kumalo. The novel never shows Arthur while he is alive, but portrays his character through his many papers and correspondences read by Arthur’s father, James. He was… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
John Kumalo
Stephen Kumalo’s brother. Since coming to Johannesburg, he has become a powerful but slightly corrupt political leader and activist for the blacks of Johannesburg. He has also shunned his Christian faith and its moral trappings, distressing Stephen greatly.
Theophilus Msimangu
– The minister who invited Stephen Kumalo to Mission House, and who aids Stephen at every turn.
Father Vincent
Another minister at Mission House. Like Msimangu, Father Vincent helps Stephen greatly, encouraging him to pray and rest after the devastating news about Absalom’s crime.
Gertrude Kumalo
Stephen Kumalo’s sister. Gertrude is flighty, and like her nephew Absalom was easily corrupted by Johannesburg. She is only able to find peace once she runs away to become a nun.
Absalom’s girlfriend
Absalom’s pregnant girlfriend. She eagerly comes and lives with Stephen and his wife after they leave Johannesburg, and is overjoyed to have a new family to call her “daughter.” She marries Absalom prior to his execution.
Arthur’s son
– A young boy with a “brightness” in him, Arthur Jarvis’s son (also the son of Mary Jarvis) visits Stephen Kumalo to learn Zulu. He is kind and passes along information about the community’s needs to his grandfather, James Jarvis.
Mrs. Lithebe
– A member of Msimangu’s church, in whose home Stephen (and later Gertrude, her son, and Absalom’s girlfriend) stay during their time in Johannesburg. She is a stern, kind, and deeply proper woman.
Mr. Harrison
Mary Jarvis’s father. He rails on and on about how the country’s ills are the fault of the “natives.”
John Harrison
Mary Jarvis’s brother, James Jarvis’s son-in-law. More progressive than his father, John is a good friend to James.
Napoleon Letsitsi
A young man sent by James Jarvis to help Stephen’s community build a dam and improve their agriculture. He admires James, but also talks to Stephen about the unfairness of how South Africa’s land has been divided among whites and blacks.
Margaret Jarvis
James Jarvis’s wife. She is devastated by her son’s death. Already sickly, she dies after returning from Johannesburg.
Stephen’s wife
Stephen Kumalo’s wife. She is a patient and loving woman who suffers greatly, but stoically.
Mr. Carmichael
The lawyer who takes on Absalom Kumalo’s case. He does so free of charge.
Matthew Kumalo
John Kumalo’s son and Absalom’s cousin. He is one the accomplices with Absalom when Arthur Jarvis is shot and killed. He lies about his presence at the murder scene and is acquitted.
Mary Jarvis
The late Arthur Jarvis’s wife, and James Jarvis’s daughter-in-law. She takes in her father-in-law after her mother-in-law, Margaret Jarvis, passes away.
Gertrude’s son
Gertrude’s young son, who listens to Stephen’s stories.