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Cry The Beloved Country Chapter Summaries

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Summary Ð'-- Chapter 1

In the hilly South African province of Natal, a lovely road winds its way up from the village of Ixopo to Carisbrooke, a journey of seven miles. This misty vantage point looks out over one of the fairest valleys of Africa, where the native birds sing and the grass is dense and green. The lush grass of the hills clings to the rain and mist, soaking up the moisture, which in turn feeds every stream. Although cattle graze here, their feeding has not destroyed the land, and the few fires that burn have not harmed the soil. As the hills roll down to the valley below, however, they become red and bare. The grass there has been destroyed by cattle and fire, and the streams have all run dry. When storms come, the red dirt runs like blood, and the crops are withered and puny. These valleys are the homes of the elderly, who scrape at the dirt for sustenance. Some mothers live here with their children, but all the able-bodied young people have long since moved away.

Summary Ð'-- Chapter 3

Kumalo waits for the Johannesburg train at Carisbrooke. Generally, this journey is shrouded in mist, which some find to be an ominous sign and others find a mysterious prelude to adventure. Kumalo, however, pays little attention to his surroundings. He is anxious about his sister's health, the potential costs of treating her illness, and the chaos of Johannesburg, where there are many buses and one can be killed just by crossing the street, as happened to a twelve-year-old boy who was an acquaintance of Kumalo's. His gravest concern is his son.

The train arrives, and Kumalo bids farewell to the companion who has helped him bring his bags to the station. As Kumalo boards the train, his companion passes on a request from a man named Sibeko, whose daughter accompanied a white family to Johannesburg and has not written since. Kumalo says he will do what he can. He boards one of the train's designated non-European carriages, where he searches in vain for a fellow passenger of the same social class as himself. He then goes to the window to say farewell to his friend and asks why Sibeko couldn't make his request himself. His companion explains that Sibeko does not belong to Kumalo's church, but Kumalo proclaims that they are all of the same people and should not hesitate to go to one another in times of trouble. He states grandiosely that he will check on Sibeko's daughter, although he will be busy, as he always is when he is in Johannesburg. Since Kumalo has never been to Johannesburg before, this statement is a fib, but it has the desired effect of impressing Kumalo's fellow passengers.

Summary Ð'-- Chapter 4

The train to Johannesburg travels a full day and night, climbing through many hills and villages. The regions Kumalo passes through are unfamiliar to him, with foreign landscapes and signs written in Afrikaans, which he does not speak. The great mines of South Africa come into view, and Kumalo's fellow travelers, many of whom are miners, explain how the mines are painstakingly excavated. They point out the great pulley that hoists the broken rocks, and Kumalo is awestruck by the scale of it all. Overwhelmed by the modern surroundings, he keeps mistaking the passing landscape for Johannesburg, but his fellow passengers laugh and tell him of buildings in Johannesburg so tall they can barely describe them.

The train arrives in Johannesburg, where Kumalo moves gingerly through the crowds that swarm throughout the station. Outside the station, the rush of traffic so terrifies Kumalo that he stands petrified on the sidewalk, unable to decipher the traffic lights. Speaking in a language Kumalo does not understand, a young man appears and offers to help Kumalo find his way to Sophiatown.

The young man leads Kumalo to the bus station, where he tells Kumalo to wait in line for the buses while the young man buys him a ticket. Eager to show his trust, Kumalo gives the young man a pound from his precious savings. He begins to suspect that something is wrong, however, as soon as the young man turns the corner. An elderly man takes pity on the helpless Kumalo and informs him that his money has been stolen. When it turns out that they are both headed for Sophiatown, the elderly man invites Kumalo to travel with him. He guides Kumalo safely to Msimangu's Mission House, where the young Reverend Msimangu opens the door and introduces Kumalo's companion as Mr. Mafolo. Mr. Mafolo takes his leave as Kumalo, safe at last, enjoys a cigarette and reflects on the days to come.

Summary Ð'-- Chapter 5

Msimangu informs Kumalo that he has found a room for him with Mrs. Lithebe, a local churchgoer. Kumalo uses a modern toilet for the first timeÐ'--in his village, he had heard of these devices, but he had never used one. The two men dine with the other priests, a group that includes both blacks and whites, at the mission. Kumalo speaks sadly and lovingly about his village, and about how both Ixopo and its neighboring villages are falling into ruin. One white rosy-cheeked priest wishes to hear more, but he excuses himself to attend to other affairs. The other priests, in turn, tell Kumalo that all is not well in JohannesburgÐ'--white



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