Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved Country

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Earth/Land Symbol Analysis

Earth/Land Symbol Icon
The earth/land of South Africa is the stabilizing force for her inhabitants. Where she (the earth is often referred to as a kind of mother) is respected and loved, she is nourishing, healthy, and able to support her people. Where she is destroyed—through urbanization (Johannesburg), through mining (the search for gold)—there is corruption, decay, drought, and a resulting poverty, starvation and thirst, etc. The most elemental of these symbols, she is also the most consistent. When her land is stripped and drought is followed by heavy rain, the earth is rightly described as “bleeding.” She is her people, and her people are her, and destruction of one begins a cycle of destruction for the other. Where the earth/land is referenced in Cry, The Beloved Country, look at her treatment by her citizens—if she’s being hurt, they will be hurt. If she is being supported, good things will follow.

Earth/Land Quotes in Cry, the Beloved Country

The Cry, the Beloved Country quotes below all refer to the symbol of Earth/Land. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of Cry, the Beloved Country published in 2003.
Book I, Chapter 1 Quotes

There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. The road climbs seven miles into them, to Carisbrooke; and from there, if there is no mist, you look down on one of the fairest valleys of Africa… The grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. It holds the rain and the mist, and they seep into the ground, feeding the streams in every kloof. It is well-tended, and not too many cattle feed upon it; not too many fires burn it, laying bare the soil. Stand unshod upon it, for the ground is holy, being even as it came from the Creator. Keep it, guard it, care for it, for it keeps men, guards men, cares for men. Destroy it and man is destroyed.

Related Symbols: Earth/Land
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel opens with a description of the natural landscape around Ixopo. The unnamed narrator speaks of the "grass-covered and rolling" hills in reverent terms, emphasizing the fact that the area's natural beauty is undisturbed and needs to be protected. Toward the end of this passage, the narrator uses Christian language to describe the duty to preserve the land, and warns: "Destroy it and man is destroyed." This paragraph establishes several of the novel's key themes. Rural South Africa is presented as a "rich," precious, benevolent landscape––sacred because it was created by God for the good of mankind. 

Indeed, though humanity is present within the passage, it plays a limited role in this scene of natural glory. The landscape is "lovely beyond any singing of it," implying that the land is beautiful in its own right, not because of its aesthetic or instrumental value to people. Similarly, the ground "is well-tended, and not too many cattle feed upon it; not too many fires burn it." This suggests that the native people of South Africa took good care of the land before colonization and industrialization, and still do in rural areas. However, the warning at the end of the paragraph hints at the exploitation of the land that has arisen as a result of colonization, industrial farming, and mining. The narrator's words imply that these activities will ultimately destroy all people, regardless of race. 

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Where you stand the grass is rich and matted, you cannot see the soil. But the rich green hills break down. They fall to the valley below, and falling, change their nature. For they grow red and bare; they cannot hold the rain and mist, and the streams are dry in the kloofs. Too many cattle feed upon the grass, and too many fires have burned it. Stand shod upon it, for it is coarse and sharp, and the stones cut under the feet. It is not kept, or guarded, or cared for, it no longer keeps men, guards men, cares for men. The titihoya does not cry here any more.

Related Symbols: Earth/Land
Page Number: 23-24
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has described the lush natural landscape of rural South Africa: beautiful, fertile, and peaceful. This part of the country has been left relatively untouched by human activities, and flourishes as a result. However, in this passage the narrator introduces (in almost identical language) a contrasting landscape––one that has been damaged and exploited. Just as humanity has not "kept," "guarded," and "cared for" this land, so has it ceased to protect and sustain humanity. Although not stated explicitly, it is clear that the land has been over-farmed and abused as a result of European colonization. The fact that the land was once rich and undisturbed is demonstrated by the final sentence, which states that the titihoya (a native South African bird with a distinctive call) "does not cry here any more"––implying that it once did. 

Down in the valleys women scratch the soil that is left, and the maize hardly reaches the height of a man. They are valleys of old men and old women, of mothers and children. The men are away, the young men and the girls are away. The soil cannot keep them any more.

Related Symbols: Johannesburg, Earth/Land
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has described two contrasting landscapes: grassy hills that are lush and pleasant, and valleys that are "coarse," barren, and dangerous. The valleys have been damaged and exhausted by industrialization, over-farming, and mining. In this passage, the narrator mentions that all the young people in the valleys have left, as the land is not fertile enough to sustain them. Although it is not mentioned explicitly, the young people are forced to go to the cities to earn money there, as this represents the only hope of survival. This dilemma is of central importance within the narrative. Like the young people in this paragraph, Stephen's son, Absalom, moves to the city, only to be driven to crime. Disconnected from the land, people are vulnerable to corruption.

Book I, Chapter 9 Quotes

All roads lead to Johannesburg. If you are white or if you are black they lead to Johannesburg. If the crops fail, there is work in Johannesburg. If there are taxes to be paid, there is work in Johannesburg. If the farm is too small to be divided further, some must go to Johannesburg. If there is a child to be born that must be delivered in secret, it can be delivered in Johannesburg.

Related Symbols: Johannesburg, Money/Gold, Earth/Land
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Stephen has learned that Absalom is living in a shanty town, and he and Msimangu have set off to find him. Meanwhile, a second voice has joined the primary narrator, and in this passage the narration returns to the earlier statement that "all roads lead to Johannesburg," expanding on the many reasons why people are drawn to the city. In contrast to more optimistic narratives that portray urbanization as an opportunity for multiculturalism, social mobility, and innovation, this passage presents the appeal of Johannesburg in rather negative terms. The narrator shows that people are forced to go to Johannesburg as a result of desperation caused by failed crops, poverty, or unwanted pregnancies. Rather than being a city of opportunity, Johannesburg is the inevitable destination of those who are poor, oppressed, or otherwise unlucky. 

Book I, Chapter 11 Quotes

There is not much talking now. A silence falls upon them all. This is no time to talk of hedges and fields, or the beauties of any country. Sadness and fear and hate, how they well up in the heart and mind, whenever one opens pages of these messengers of doom. Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end. The sun pours down on the earth, on the lovely land that man cannot enjoy. He knows only the fear of his heart.

Related Symbols: Earth/Land
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Stephen has still not found Absalom, but has discovered that Arthur Jarvis has been murdered during a home invasion. Stephen and the priests learn that Jarvis was working on a manuscript when he was killed, and that he was known for his support of the black community. In this passage, the narrator laments the state of the South African nation, which is dominated by "sadness and fear and hate." The narrator emphasizes that the country's natural beauty remains, but that people are not able to enjoy it because they are so consumed by the death and suffering around them ("the fear of [one's] heart").

This passage contains the title of the novel, which takes the form of a demand to mourn what has become of South Africa. The phrasing of the sentence "Cry, the beloved country" also suggests that it is South Africa itself that is crying. This coheres with other instances in the novel in which the land is represented as bleeding or hurting in the same way as a living organism. 

Book I, Chapter 12 Quotes

Some cry for the cutting up of South Africa without delay into separate areas, where white can live without black, and black without white, where black can farm their own land and mine their own minerals and administer their own laws. And others cry away with the compound system, that brings men to the towns without their wives and children, and breaks up the tribe and the house and the man, and they ask for the establishment of villages for the labourers in mines and industry.

Related Symbols: Money/Gold, Earth/Land
Page Number: 99-
Explanation and Analysis:

A town hall has been held at which the murder of Arthur Jarvis is discussed, alongside other concerns about crime, social welfare, and race relations. The crowd has debated education, with some proposing that enrollment of black children in school should increase; others oppose this idea. Eventually, the crowd begins to discuss the possibility of apartheid––"the cutting up of South Africa... into separate areas, where white can live without black." The introduction of this suggestion into the context of the town hall reveals the way in which apartheid was framed as a "solution" to the problems of poverty and crime. The implication was that South Africa's problems were a result of racial mixing.

Using this logic, it is possible to make apartheid seem like an attractive and fair solution (as "separate but equal" segregation was for many whites in the American South). The narrator's explanation that black South Africans could "farm their own land and administer their own laws" makes it seem as if apartheid would benefit black people, affording them more freedom and self-determination. However, this masks the reality of what the separation of the races really entailed. Because of colonization, whites were far wealthier and possessed control over land, resources, and power––even though these entities originally belonged to native black South Africans. Overall, this passage makes clear how easy it can be to disguise oppressive policies as beneficial to those they are designed to exploit. 

Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.

Related Symbols: Earth/Land
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

A town hall has been held to discuss the problem of crime, during which time some people have suggested implementing an apartheid system. The narrator, speaking in the voice of a (white) chorus, has hinted at the likely repercussions of apartheid: white people living in a constant state of pre-emptive aggression and fear, cutting themselves off from the country while simultaneously further establishing themselves as the superior race. In this passage, the chorus refers to an unborn child whom it wishes will not "love the earth too deeply," because "fear will rob him of all." The chorus repeats the novel's title, "Cry, the beloved country," linking this passage back to earlier lamentations about the state of South Africa. 

The chorus's words refer to an abstract child, who––given the way this passage links to previous discussions of the fear of white South Africans––is presumably white. Although the child is unnamed, the chorus could also be referring to a specific character in the novel: Arthur Jarvis. The chorus's plea that the child not "love" or "be moved" by the land perhaps connects to Jarvis's concern about native South Africans. Indeed, the fact that it was Jarvis who was accidentally murdered is framed as all the more tragic, due to the fact that he represented hope for South African race relations. 

Book II, Chapter 20 Quotes

The old tribal system was, for all its violence and savagery, for all its superstition and witchcraft, a moral system. Our natives today produce criminals and prostitutes and drunkards, not because it is their nature to do so, but because their simple system of order and tradition and convention has been destroyed. It was destroyed by the impact of our own civilization. Our civilization has therefore an inescapable duty to set up another system of order and tradition and convention. It is true that we hoped to preserve the tribal system by a policy of segregation. That was permissible. But we never did it thoroughly or honestly. We set aside one-tenth of the land for four-fifths of the people. Thus we made it inevitable, and some say we did it knowingly, that labour would come to the towns. We are caught in the toils of our own selfishness.

Related Characters: Arthur Jarvis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Johannesburg, Money/Gold, Earth/Land
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

James Jarvis has gone to Arthur's house and has looked through his books and papers, noting many books on Abraham Lincoln and documents indicating Arthur was President of the African Boys' Club. James also discovers a manuscript that Arthur was working on when he died. In this passage from the manuscript, Arthur describes the way in which European colonization "destroyed" the tribal communities of South Africa. From a contemporary perspective, Arthur seems rather forgiving of the white colonizers––he labels the policy of segregation "permissible," and describes the tribal system in typically racist terms, calling it full of "violence and savagery." However, for a white South African to be writing such a passage at the time would have been highly unusual. 

Arthur's critiques of the destructive legacy of European colonialism cohere with observations made throughout the novel, particular his statement that black South Africans remain stuck in a cycle of violence because "their simple system of order and tradition and convention has been destroyed." Furthermore, Arthur presciently identifies the fact that segregation was enacted in a dishonest way. He argues that the highly inequitable division of land forced people to come to the towns for work; as the rest of the novel shows, this mass influx of people has created further poverty, violence, and crime. 

Book II, Chapter 23 Quotes

For mines are for men, not for money. And money is not something to go mad about, and throw your hat into the air for. Money is for food and clothes and comfort, and a visit to the pictures. Money is to make happy the lives of children. Money is for security, and for dreams, and for hopes, and for purposes. Money is for buying the fruits of the earth, of the land where you were born.

Related Characters: Arthur Jarvis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Money/Gold, Earth/Land
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

James Jarvis has gone to Arthur's house and has been reading from Arthur's unfinished manuscript about the socioeconomic problems plaguing South Africa. Arthur has described how European colonialism destroyed the indigenous tribal system of South Africa, thereby leaving native South Africans without a community through which to structure their lives. In this passage, Arthur turns his focus to the mines, arguing that the riches of the mines should be "for men, not for money." This distinction alludes to the problem of pursuing money for its own sake. As Arthur explains, money has many necessary uses––"food and clothes and comfort," "security," and "buying the fruits of the earth." In one sense, this passage emphasizes the importance of money, implying that without sufficient income, people will suffer. 

On the other hand, this passage also serves as a warning against greed. As Arthur argues, money is not valuable in itself; rather, it is only valuable because of the good things it can bring to people. The implication of this statement is that it is very possible to have too much money. Arthur's statement that money should be used for "purposes" sounds vague; however, it takes on a deeper meaning within the context of global imperialism. Many people today observe that the driving force behind colonization was greed––European colonizers identified an opportunity to grow rich through the exploitation of natural resources and the labor of indigenous populations, and developed colonial systems and racial philosophies accordingly. 

Book II, Chapter 24 Quotes

One can read, as I read when I was a boy, the brochures about lovely South Africa, that land of sun and beauty sheltered from the storms of the world, and feel pride in it and love for it, and yet know nothing about it at all. It is only as one grows up that one learns that there are other things here than sun and gold and oranges. It is only then that one learns of the hates and fears of our country. It is only then that one's love grows deep and passionate, as a man may love a woman who is true, false, cold, loving, cruel and afraid.

Related Characters: Arthur Jarvis (speaker)
Related Symbols: Earth/Land
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

James has returned to Arthur's house to read again from the manuscript his son was writing when he was killed. He has reread the exact passage Arthur was composing when he was shot, before turning to another essay Arthur had previously written. In this essay, Arthur describes his childhood naïveté about South Africa. He writes that children are shown only a very narrow view of the country, one that emphasizes its natural beauty but ignores the social strife and other problems that plague the nation. Somewhat surprisingly, Arthur then argues that it is only after discovering these harsh facts about South Africa that is possible to truly love the country. 

This passage suggests that Arthur is the kind of person who Msimangu described as representing hope for South Africa's future––someone who is not motivated by the desire for money or power, but rather by a deep, honest love for the country. On the other hand, Arthur's description of his love of South Africa does seem particular to a white South African experience. Stephen's love of his country, for example, does seem to dwell much more in the natural landscape and tribal system that existed before European colonization. Unlike in Arthur's case, this love does not emerge from childhood naïveté, but from the fact that this is the version of South Africa with which Stephen and his ancestors are familiar. 

Book III, Chapter 36 Quotes

The great valley of the Umzimkulu is still in darkness, but the light will come there. Ndotsheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there also. For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret.

Related Symbols: Earth/Land
Page Number: 304
Explanation and Analysis:

The day before Absalom is due to be executed, Stephen decides to go up the mountain. He has done this three times before, all at moments of crisis, when he was in need of spiritual guidance and strength. Having arrived at his destination, Stephen confesses his sins and gives thanks before falling asleep. He awakes just before dawn, and in this passage the narrator describes the natural landscape at the hour just before it is illuminated by the sunrise. The narrator emphasizes the contrast between the predictable cycle of sunlight that has been the same "for a thousand centuries" and the unknowability of the future. This refers both to the specific fate of Absalom, as well as to the broader fate of South Africa as a whole.

The passage contains a clear sense of hope that this metaphorical dawn will come (just as the literal dawn eventually comes even to valleys that are "still in darkness"), bringing the "emancipation" of the people from "the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear." This last phrase represents the two oppressive states of existence experienced by black and white South Africans, respectively. The black community, who have suffered from colonialism, exploitation, racism, and poverty, live under "the fear of bondage"; meanwhile, Afrikaners are paralyzed by "the bondage of fear," which inhibits their empathy for black people and leads them to perpetuate racist violence. The hope for change within the passage is strong, but also tentative. The narrator seems sure that the "dawn will come," but how long it will take remains completely unknown. 

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Earth/Land Symbol Timeline in Cry, the Beloved Country

The timeline below shows where the symbol Earth/Land appears in Cry, the Beloved Country. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book I, Chapter 1
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
...the birds, the mountains, and the road that leads into them. Cattle graze on the ground, but not enough to overgraze and the land. The ground holds moisture and life, and... (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Christian Faith Theme Icon
The narrator states that you should stand barefoot upon this earth, because it’s sacred, and from God. The narrator instructs you to take care of the... (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
...overgrazing of cattle, and misuse. The narrator tells you that if you stand on this ground barefoot, you will cut your feet. Man did not take care of it, and now... (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
The earth is torn apart, and it can no longer hold its young people. Only the elderly... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 5
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...seen before. Then Stephen and all the priests eat together, and talk about how the land and people of Ixopo are suffering, and the general “sickness of the land,” resulting in... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 9
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
...voices in a kind of Greek chorus. They tell of how the brokenness of the land and people leads directly into Johannesburg. People go there in droves, and they are constantly... (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
...sicker and sicker, her mother sings to her, reminisces of the natural beauty of the land where they came from, turning into cries of fear. The child is dying. A man... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 18
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
...narrator returns to the hills above Ixopo, repeating the same praises and description of the earth as in Chapter 1. But instead of looking down, the narrator shows High Place, the... (full context)
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
James observes the plowing of his fields. There is a drought, and the earth is dry and hard. As he walks, he worries about the people in the valley... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 20
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Racism and Apartheid Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...structure and the creation of criminals. He also points out that setting aside not enough land for a majority of the population is a dishonest way to go about solving the... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 22
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Christian Faith Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...He also tells the court that after the murder, he buried the revolver in the ground, and then prayed for forgiveness. Afterwards, when the police came searching for one of his... (full context)
Book III, Chapter 30
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...he has been missed. They tell Stephen about the drought that has been parching the land. When Stephen asks how they have been finding water, they tell him that they draw... (full context)
Book III, Chapter 31
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...As he walks to see the chief, he observes how the drought has brutalized the land. (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Book III, Chapter 32
The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...a strange scene—the magistrate, James Jarvis, and other white men are arranging sticks in the ground near the church. The storm clouds grow fiercer and fiercer, and the storm comes up... (full context)
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
That night, the community is puzzled about the nature of the sticks in the ground. The children play games around them. The man with the milk makes his delivery, and... (full context)
Book III, Chapter 33
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...Napoleon Letsitsi. He was hired by James to help teach farming and care of the earth to the people of Ndotsheni. Stephen asks Napoleon if he would like to stay with... (full context)
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
Understanding/Knowledge vs. Ignorance/Naiveté Theme Icon
...holidays, and then rides away. As Stephen watches him go, Napoleon tells him that this land and valley can be again what it was in the past. Stephen says that he... (full context)