Book Three—Discussion Questions
2. How in your view, do the drought and the storm which breaks the drought, fit into the pattern of the main story?
3. Examine in detail Stephen's visits to the chief and the headmaster in Chapter 31.
4. What do you see as the significance of the bright young boy, Arthur's son, who appears in Chapters 31 and 33?
5. Isn't it odd that in Chapter 32, Jarvis and the others should mark out the space for the new dam without informing Stephen of their intentions? Are we perhaps to take this as an instance of the unwitting high-handedness of well-meaning liberals? And is the unannounced arrival of Napoleon Letsisi in Chapter 33 another result of this attitude?
6. Letsisi offers hope that the soil-eroded valley of Ndotsheni can be restored. Paton has been taken to task by some critics for suggesting that reviving the eroded countryside of South Africa could solve the country's great problems. Do you think this is a fair criticism? (See also question 15.)
7. In Chapter 34 Stephen feels certain that the letter from Jarvis—which arrives at a crucial moment while he is with the Bishop—is an instance of divine intervention. Does Paton, in your view, succeed in telling the story in such a way that we are able to sympathize with and even share Stephen's view?
8. What are our impressions of the Bishop, who appears in Chapter 34?
9. Attempt to sum up the varied feelings of the Ndotsheni community as Letsisi's new agricultural theories and plans begin to be put into action.
10. The discussion between Stephen Kumalo and Napoleon Letsisi in the second half of Chapter 35 is extremely important. In it Paton introduces a challenging critique of Stephen's assumptions. In what ways, if any, does this discussion alter our assessment of Stephen and his vision of human life?
11. More specifically, do Letsisi's sound views of self-reliance and socio-political awareness undermine the religious vision, which the novel has seemed to embody?
12. Study carefully the meeting between Stephen and Jarvis in Chapter 36. What do we learn about the two men, and about the nature of their relationship?
13. Write an evaluation of Stephen's night vigil on the mountain. What does it achieve for him? What does it achieve for the reader?
14. Write an account of your detailed responses to the final paragraph of the novel.
15. One of the fascinating and significant aspects of Cry, the Beloved Country is that it tells a particular fictional story and is at the same time, to some degree, a book about South Africa in 1946 and its possible or probable future. This has meant that what could be interpreted as Paton's ways of resolving the particular issues that have arisen within the fictional story have been assumed by some—rightly or wrongly—to represent his blueprint for the future of South Africa. Write a comment on this issue.