Cry, the Beloved Country

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Themes and Colors
The Land and the Tribe Theme Icon
Racism and Apartheid 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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Cry, the Beloved Country, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Christian Faith Theme Icon

Despite the fact that it was the white British and Dutch colonizers who introduced the Christian faith to South Africa through colonization, this faith is the bedrock for most of the protagonists’ lives, black or white. Many of the characters are either men of the church (Stephen Kumalo, Father Vincent, Theophilus Msimangu), or are people of faith. Gertrude Kumalo even turns to the nunhood at the end of the book in order to escape the darkness that the city has visited upon her. The way that Christianity plays into these characters’ lives is illustrated most clearly when Stephen, at his darkest moment—having just discovered that his son has killed a white man and will likely be put to death—is commanded by Father Vincent to pray. The book concludes with Stephen’s vigil – standing and praying on the mountainside at the hour he knows his son is being executed – and it is only this (nature and faith) that gives him peace.

Throughout the novel, Christianity brings stability and tranquility to the lives of its followers, while secularism and atheism are connected to power and corruption. This dichotomy is most clearly illustrated between the two brothers: Stephen is good, and a man of faith. Despite his troubles, he ultimately finds peace. John Kumalo, on the other hand, rejects Christianity. Msimangu tells Stephen that his brother “has no use for the Church any more. He says that what God has not done for South Africa, man must do.” And John selfishly ensures that Absalom will die so that his own son can be saved. The novel ties secularism to the corruption of Johannesburg, a city where the “peace of god escapes” its residents. Faith, in contrast, is portrayed as a force, like the land, that stabilizes the tribe. In fact, the novel implies that the salvation for all of South Africa lies in the eventual uniting force of Christianity. There is a repeated mantra of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, or “God Save Africa.” And the ground itself, the novel states multiple times, comes directly from The Creator.

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Christian Faith Quotes in Cry, the Beloved Country

Below you will find the important quotes in Cry, the Beloved Country related to the theme of Christian Faith.
Book I, Chapter 1 Quotes

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.

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Book I, Chapter 11 Quotes

There are times, no doubt, when God seems no more to be about the world.

Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

Stephen and the priests have learned about the murder of Arthur Jarvis, which they all find deeply disturbing. Stephen is particularly upset, as he knew Jarvis' parents, and when Msimangu suggests that they pray together, Stephen refuses. The narrator observes that this is an occasion "when God seems no more to be about the world." This observation reveals the extent of how bleak and hopeless South African society seems to be at this point. Usually, Stephen and other characters in the novel find solace and strength in religion, but this moment suggests that there are occasions that are so terrible that even faith cannot provide consolation. The way this statement is worded does not suggest that God doesn't exist, but rather that He has abandoned the people of South Africa.