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“Cry, the Beloved Country" Study Guide: Important Quotes Explained

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/20/2012

These quotes from “Cry, the Beloved Country" bring out the main themes in the book. Read on for an analysis of important excerpts from the book.

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    “But the house that is broken, and the man that falls apart when the house is broken, these are the tragic things. That is why children break the law, and old white people are robbed and beaten." (p. 36)


    This quote discusses one of the overarching themes in the novel – the horrors of the breaking of tribal bonds. Right before this quote, Msimangu maintains that the worst part of the situation is not that things are “broken," but that they are “not mended again." He believes that what is “broken" with Africa can, in fact, be mended; however, this does not help the characters in the story who have undergone tragedies because of the present breakdown of African society.

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    I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating. (p. 94)


    Msimangu says this quote to explain his feelings towards the more radical blacks who are protesting subjugation. He hopes that the whites will eventually overcome their feelings of superiority over the blacks, but he fears that when that day comes, the blacks will be so passionately averse to the whites that peaceful advances will never succeed.

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    "Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear." (p. 110)


    This quote stands in direct contrast to the description of Africa at the beginning of the book. While Africa began as tranquil and full of beauty, it is now being asked to cry for its sorry future. The “fear" mentioned in this quote is repeated throughout the novel as the cause of the unrest in Africa.

    The quote continues with directions to the unborn child to hold back from enjoying the land that will eventually fall into even greater disrepair: “Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much."

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    "The truth is that our society is not Christian; it is a tragic compound of great ideal and fearful practice, of high assurance and desperate anxiety, of loving charity and fearful clutching of possession. Allow me a minute. . . ." (p. 145)


    These are the last words written by Arthur Jarvis before his death. They argue that the white society that professes to be Christian is not actually following Christian ideals. Although some have professed that subjugation of black is a Christian idea, he strongly disagrees, maintaining that the hypocrisy of white society in Africa, manifested by the subjugation of the blacks, goes against all Christian doctrine.

    Although there are other memorable quotes from “Cry, the Beloved Country," these drive home the main themes of the novel.


  • "Cry, the Beloved Country," by Alan Paton. Published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1948.

"Cry, the Beloved Country" Study Guide

Reading "Cry, the Beloved Country" in class? This "Cry, the Beloved Country" study guide contains articles that can help you prepare for a test - or just enjoy the book itself.
  1. “Cry, the Beloved Country" Study Guide: Biblical Allusions and Tone
  2. “Cry, the Beloved Country" Study Guide: Important Quotes Explained