The novel Cry, the Beloved Country, written by "Alan Paton", takes place in South Africa in 1946, just before the onset of apartheid, or the separation of races. As the novel demonstrates, long before the South African apartheid era, racial inequality existed. Concerning the state of racial affairs in South Africa, the novel shows the story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his search in Johannesburg for his son, who is accused of murdering the white social reformer Arthur Jarvis. The novel presents a study of human relationship of how pain, suffering and love bring people together.
"Alan Paton" begins Cry, the Beloved Country with a description of the land surrounding Ixopo, the village where the pastor Stephen Kumalo lives. Paton establishes this as a rural and isolated area, which is important to develop the character of Kumalo and his relationship to the larger urban area of Johannesburg where he will soon find himself.
An assumption that the author makes throughout Cry, the Beloved Country the crimes that occur are significant in what they cause but what they represent. This is demonstrated through two separate events, the first in the journey from Alexandra back to Johannesburg and the second at the end of the trial of Absalom Kumalo. In both instances, a white man shows his allegiance to the blacks of South Africa. In the first, a white man carries black men in his car in support of a strike, while in the second the young man from the reformatory exits the courtroom with the blacks. Paton uses this theme in order to show that public declarations of support are an important step in gaining justice in South Africa by demonstrating allegiances and loyalty. Consequently, the public significance of actions is evident in the book.