Often known throughout the novel as "umfundisi," which is a Zulu title of respect, Stephen Kumalo is highly respected as the native African pastor of St. Mark's Church in the village of Ndotsheni and also as an upstanding, moral, strong member of the native South African community. Yet despite his good heart and soul, Kumalo has a terrible cross to bear—the tragedy of his son's truancy and the justice that is meted out upon has family as a result. Beyond that, he is also watching the dissolution of the rural way of life he has always lived and championed. Throughout the novel, Kumalo acts as a moral compass, the glue that holds his family together—but he also represents more than that. He represents a man who has made mistakes in his life, who has regrets and grief yet finds the strength to go on anyway. He is the very definition of survival.