Cry, the Beloved Country

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Johannesburg Symbol Analysis

Johannesburg Symbol Icon
Throughout the text, Johannesburg serves as shorthand for a corrupting, magnetic force that draws in people and destroys them. Some people, notably the devoutly Christian, manage to avoid these effects, but everyone else suffers when they fall into its borders: Absalom Kumalo commits murder, Gertrude Kumalo falls in with a bad crowd, Arthur Jarvis is killed, John Kumalo becomes a corrupted politician. In the city, people are unable to find housing and so shantytowns spring up, there are not enough jobs or money, crime is rampant—each truth of Johannesburg, in turn, begets more suffering. Given that the origins of Johannesburg are that of colonization (invading Dutch forces conquering an already-settled land), this force is explicable. When Johannesburg emerges in the text, both in presence and in name, watch for the slow-creeping presence of metaphorical rot.
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Johannesburg Symbol Timeline in Cry, the Beloved Country

The timeline below shows where the symbol Johannesburg appears in Cry, the Beloved Country. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book I, Chapter 2
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The City vs. Nature Theme Icon
Fathers, Sons, and Families Theme Icon
...wife for some food. He then examines the letter and observes that it is from Johannesburg. It is dirty, and has passed through many hands. He muses on how many people... (full context)
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...open it. Finally, Stephen’s wife opens the letter. It is from Rev. Theophilus Msimangu of Johannesburg. He implores Stephen to come to Johannesburg, because Gertrude is very sick. (full context)
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...wife insists, however, that the money is no longer necessary because Absalom has gone to Johannesburg and won’t be returning, because no one returns from Johannesburg. He doesn’t even write. Stephen,... (full context)
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The roads and trains all lead toward Johannesburg. The narrator tells you to be grateful if you can sleep through the ride. (full context)
Book I, Chapter 3
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...money it will cost at every turn. He also recalls how dangerous the streets of Johannesburg are, and a story about a woman he knew who went there and saw her... (full context)
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...he would inquire after the missing daughter of Sibeko, who was also swallowed up by Johannesburg. Stephen promises to do what he can, though he seems uncertain if it’s possible. As... (full context)
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...loudly enough for the train to hear, that he shall inquire after the daughter in Johannesburg, even though he’ll be very busy. The train begins to move, and Stephen needs to... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 4
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...work, and Stephen is thrilled by the newness of it. He asks if this is Johannesburg. The passengers laugh, and begin to describe the hugeness of Johannesburg. Stephen insists that this... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 5
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...his room, and asks him some questions about his sister Gertrude—why she had come to Johannesburg, if she had ever been married. Stephen says that she came there with her child... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 6
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The next morning, Msimangu and Stephen head into Johannesburg to find Gertrude. Msimangu admits that though he is not for segregation, the downside to... (full context)
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...her prostitution and not keeping track of her child. She begins weeping, and says that Johannesburg has made her sick and she does not want to be there anymore, though she... (full context)
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...room. Stephen feels overjoyed and accomplished, that after only a single day of being in Johannesburg, he is putting right what is broken. (full context)
Book I, Chapter 7
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...beautiful day, and Stephen is writing a letter to his wife about his adventures in Johannesburg, and how successful the endeavor has been so far. He tells her that this day,... (full context)
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...and John says that Stephen and his community do not understand how life is in Johannesburg, and to write with such details would bring about “unnecessary trouble.” When Stephen presses him... (full context)
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...to fetch Gertrude and to take her back with him to Ixopo. John agrees that Johannesburg is not a good place for a single woman, and that this is a wise... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 8
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...Msimangu assures Stephen that they cannot catch a wrong one, for they all go into Johannesburg. Then they try to catch a bus to the neighborhood of Alexandra, which is where... (full context)
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...that he is in a shantytown. They thank him, and take his cab back to Johannesburg. (full context)
Book I, Chapter 9
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...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 in search of a room in... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 13
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...done to create such a son, but then considers that that is the power of Johannesburg. (full context)
Book I, Chapter 15
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...toward them. He marvels at how so many boys get lost and go astray in Johannesburg—why their son, in this particular way, when there are thousands of others? Father Vincent tells... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 16
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...says that she thinks she is sixteen. He asks if she would desire to leave Johannesburg to come and live with him and his wife, in a quiet place. Again, she... (full context)
Book I, Chapter 17
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...He says that he will eventually bring her back with him, but until he leaves Johannesburg, he wants her out of the other house. Mrs. Lithebe agrees, though there isn’t a... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 18
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...James the bad news—his son Arthur has been murdered that very afternoon, shot dead in Johannesburg by a burglar. Stupefied by this news, James sits down and tries to process what... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 19
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James’s daughter-in-law’s brother, John Harrison, meets James and Margaret when they arrive in Johannesburg. John updates them on Mary and the children as they drive to his home. At... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 21
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...with James. They smoke and have a drink and continue discussing the crime situation in Johannesburg. Mr. Harrison expresses firm, conservative views on the issues surrounding the black population. He expresses... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 22
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...was carrying a gun in the first place. Absalom says that he was told that Johannesburg was a dangerous place, and bought the gun for protection. The judge leads Absalom through... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 23
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...in this new place proves to be as much as it promises, perhaps a second Johannesburg will spring up around it. (full context)
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Those wet blankets, though, definitely don’t want a second Johannesburg. Sir Ernest Oppenheimer has suggested that this would be a good place to test a... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 25
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...looking for the daughter of Sibeko. The mistress says that she had indeed come to Johannesburg and lived there, but she had gone bad and started doing illegal things, and was... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 26
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John Kumalo is leading a protest in Johannesburg. His voice electrifies the crowd, makes the policemen uneasy. The protest is about the recently... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 27
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...so weak, that she wants to do right by Stephen. She says that she hates Johannesburg and understands it to be toxic, and wants to leave. (full context)
Book II, Chapter 28
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...how Mr. Carmichael is trying to make an argument for a simple boy mislead by Johannesburg. But the judge argues, society has created laws, and if those laws are broken, then... (full context)
Book II, Chapter 29
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...John that he should be careful for his own son, lest he be consumed by Johannesburg like Absalom. He also cautions John to be careful with his politics, and when pressed,... (full context)
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Meanwhile, James and Margaret are also preparing to leave Johannesburg. James leaves a large sum of money to John Harrison to start a club, possibly... (full context)
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...and gives Stephen all of his money, to help repay what Stephen has spent in Johannesburg. After he is gone, Stephen counts the money, repents of the fight with his brother... (full context)
Book III, Chapter 30
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...the gift. Stephen then prepares to tell her about the events that took place in Johannesburg. (full context)
Book III, Chapter 31
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...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... (full context)
Book III, Chapter 33
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...again. He has ridden back to say goodbye to Stephen because he is returning to Johannesburg tomorrow. He promises that he is returning for the holidays, and then rides away. As... (full context)
Book III, Chapter 35
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...not be big enough to hold all the people, and some would still go to Johannesburg. (full context)
Book III, Chapter 36
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...after Napoleon, and then tells Stephen that he is going to be leaving Ndotsheni for Johannesburg. When James asks Stephen where he is going, Stephen says that he is going into... (full context)