Cry, the Beloved Country Setting & Symbolism

This Study Guide consists of approximately 13 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Cry, the Beloved Country.
This section contains 515 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Msimangu’s Letter

Msimangu’s letter is addressed to Kumalo. It asks him to come to Johannesburg to look after his sick sister. There is an ominous feeling about the letter, as both Kumalo and his wife expect it to have bad news. It has been so long since they heard from any of their family in Johannesburg that they can only believe any news from the city will be bad. The letter is the inciting incident of the novel. Without Msimangu’s words exhorting Kumalo to travel to Johannesburg, the rest of the novel would not happen.


A revolver is the weapon Absalom uses to murder Arthur Jarvis. Though it is loaded with a single bullet and he only carries it as a diversionary measure against actual violence, the revolver leads to Absalom’s undoing. Without thinking, he accepts anonymous advice that guns are necessary in Johannesburg.

Iron Bar

An iron bar is the weapon Johannes Pafuri uses to knock Jarvis’ servant unconscious. Like the revolver, carrying the iron bar could lead to violence regardless of the original intention.

Arthur Jarvis’ Papers

Arthur Jarvis’ Papers are the documents Arthur wrote in which he passionately argues for justice and equality for South African blacks. Arthur’s father James reads these documents after his son’s death and slowly opens his mind to Arthur’s ideas, resulting in his desire to assist the local black community of Ndotsheni near his home in the Natal province.

Gold Mines

Gold mines are a source of great wealth for white South Africans, at the expense of cheap black labor. They are a source of tension between the races. Blacks seek their equal share in the profits the mines bring in, while whites fear how far blacks are willing to go to get their share.


Having a stove is the dearest wish of Kumalo’s wife. They have saved money for a long time to buy one. However, the purchase must be put on hold when Kumalo is forced to use the money to travel to Johannesburg to look after Gertrude and find Absalom.

High Place

High Place is the name of the prosperous Jarvis farm that overlooks the valley where Stephen Kumalo’s village, Ndotsheni, is located.


Located in the Umzimkulu valley in the South African province of Natal, Ndotsheni is the village where Kumalo lives. The village is suffering under the hardships of drought and unsustainable farming practices.

Ndotsheni’s Church

Ndotsheni’s church is the heart of the village community. Kumalo oversees the church. It is the ultimate symbol of the village’s decline because the roof leaks and there is no money to repair it. James Jarvis’ generous offer to rebuild it near the end of the novel is a metaphor for the impending rejuvenation of Ndotsheni.


Johannesburg is a large city in South Africa. It is a wealthy city because of nearby gold mines. Rural black South Africans go there in search of better opportunities. In the novel, it is represented as a hotbed of moral and ethical decline.

This section contains 515 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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