Alan Paton's novel exploded on the English reading public in 1948. Since then, the society of South Africa has evolved dramatically. Still, Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country remains a classic expression of South Africa and one of the best known stories of that country. The implications of the steadfast appeal of the novel are not only a credit to Paton's ability to capture the human tragedy of the Kumalo family, but also testimony to the unfortunate fact that racial tensions still exist both within and without South Africa.
The story itself is about the land of South Africa and its people as it is expressed in one man's quest to find his son. This mission brings the man, Reverend Stephen Kumalo, to Johannesburg—the great center of the country. Unfortunately, the son, Absalom Kumalo, is found guilty of an awful crime. In the end, the tragedy of Absalom's execution becomes a background for the renewal of the impoverished land. This renewal is made possible by a change in the attitude of a rich white landowner whose son was murdered by Absalom. Alan Paton tells this tale in a simple manner which captures pre-apartheid South Africa in a parable. However, though the tale is one of forgiveness, hope, and learning, there is a feeling of resignation to the misguided policies of what the world would soon know as Apartheid.