Cry the Beloved Country
Alan Paton
Contributed by Cinderella Domino
Character Analysis
Reverend Stephen Kumalo

He is the protagonist of the novel, the native priest of the small village of Ndotsheni. The names of some of the characters have significance and we relate to St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr who was stoned to death. Kumalo has seen his immediate family disperse to the sprawling city of Johannesburg.  He has seen the old customs decline and the increasing oppression of his people. He is often referred to as ‘umfundisi’, which is a term used when speaking respectfully to a parson. Kumalo is a good and humble man, but can sometimes lose his temper due to frustration.

Absalom Kumalo

Kumalo’s son, he soon falls into a life of petty crime after running away to the bright city lights of Johannesburg.  He falls into bad company, which eventually leads to the murder of Arthur Jarvis, for which he is convicted and sentenced to death.  Along the way, he meets a young girl, but deserts her when she becomes pregnant.

Gertrude Kumalo

Kumalo’s younger sister by twenty-five years, Gertrude travels to Johannesburg looking for the father of her young son. In order to support the child, she resorts to prostitution.

John Kumalo

He is Kumalo’s brother who turns his back on the Church and becomes a powerful and corrupt black politician in Johannesburg. He wishes to play the part of Chief, and keep all the trappings that this would bring.

Reverend Msimangu

He is a kind young priest who runs a Mission House in Johannesburg.  Msimangu inspires Kumalo with his good sermons and aids him in his search for his family. He concentrates his efforts in dealing the oppression suffered by his flock.

James Jarvis

He is a wealthy farmer who lives close to Ndotsheni. His son is murdered by Absalom Kumalo and Jarvis dedicates himself to helping the oppressed people of Ndotsheni after his son’s death.

Arthur Jarvis

The murdered son of James Jarvis, he is a social activist determined to bring social reform to South Africa.

Mrs. Lithebe

Kumalo’s landlady in Johannesburg, she becomes a close friend. She takes in Kumalo’s sister and child.

Father Vincent

He is an English priest who assists Kumalo in obtaining a defense lawyer for his son.

Mr. Carmichael

He is a famous lawyer who takes on Absalom Kumalo’s case for free. 

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