Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved Country


Alan Paton

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Cry, the Beloved Country Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Alan Paton

Alan Paton was born and raised in South Africa. After he completed Natal University, Alan Paton taught school in the village of Ixopo. He began to explore religion, and converted to Anglicanism in 1930. In 1935, he became principal of the Diepkloof Reformatory for delinquent black boys, where he made many successful, progressive reforms to the institution. During a visit of European and American prisons and reformatories, he began to write Cry, the Beloved Country. It was an immediate success upon publication, and sold over 15 million copies during Paton’s lifetime. After the rise of the National Party, Paton became an anti-apartheid activist. He was president of the Liberal Party from 1953 until it was disbanded in 1968 because of new laws directed against interracial political parties. Paton was considered an enemy of the state: the government took his passport away in 1960, and did not restore it for a decade. He died in 1988, before the end of apartheid.
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Historical Context of Cry, the Beloved Country

In the same year after the publication of Cry, the Beloved Country, the National Party rose to power in South Africa and implemented racial apartheid, an extreme form of segregation between the wealthy white minority and the poorer, oppressed black majority.

Other Books Related to Cry, the Beloved Country

There are many books in the South African canon that deal with apartheid and its effects: July’s People (1981), by Nobel Prize for Literature Laureate Nadine Gordimer, predicted how the system would fall and was banned by the government. Tsotsi (1980) by Athol Fugard, follows a young criminal with no family struggling amidst crushing poverty. Another novel by Alan Paton, Ah, But Your Land is Beautiful (1983), is set during the 1950s and follows a fictional version of his own political activism.
Key Facts about Cry, the Beloved Country
  • Full Title: Cry, The Beloved Country
  • When Written: 1946
  • Where Written: Norway and the United States
  • When Published: 1948
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Novel
  • Setting: Johannesburg & Ndotsheni, South Africa
  • Climax: When Absalom is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.
  • Antagonist: The State
  • Point of View: Some sections are from the third-person POV of Stephen Kumalo, some from the third-person POV of James Jarvis, and still others from a nameless narrator.

Extra Credit for Cry, the Beloved Country

Film Adaptations. Two famous films have been adapted from Cry, the Beloved Country: the first, in 1951, was written by Paton, and starred Sidney Poitier and Canada Lee. The second, in 1995, starred James Earl Jones.

Political Prediction. Cry, the Beloved Country was very politically prescient: it described a country descending into apartheid and was published in 1948, just before apartheid was enacted into law.