Justification for Teaching

Cry, the Beloved Country is an insightful look at the social and political problems in South Africa that led to Apartheid. In addition to shedding light on wrongful discrimination and segregation, Alan Paton tells an engaging story about a father’s search for his son. These themes of family, justice, and freedom make this a story that continues to be relevant today.

While reading this book, your students will learn about a part of history that deserves to be taught and understood. Due to the story’s engaging plot, they won’t feel like they're reading a history textbook.

Potential Objections

Substance abuse: This novel contains references to alcohol.

Sexuality: This novel contains references to prostitution.

Key Literary Elements & Techniques

  • metaphor
  • foreshadowing
  • irony
  • simile
  • allusion

Themes and Motifs

  • Race — The novel is set in South Africa, and it was published in the same year that Apartheid became law. Racial segregation is a focal point
  • JusticeCry, the Beloved Country examines the social and political issues that would lead to Apartheid
  • Freedom — Racial discrimination is widespread: suffrage, land ownership, representation in government, and other essential rights are highly restricted or nonexistent  

Key Facts

  • Length: 316 pages
  • Lexile® Measure: 860L
  • Recommended Grade Band: 11 – 12
  • Publication Date: 1948

External Resources

Cry, the Beloved Country (Wikipedia)

Interview with Alan Paton (patontrust.co.za)

Biography of Alan Paton (Britannica.com)


The text has been adapted to film twice. The first adaptation was released in 1951 and was directed by Zoltan Korda. The second, directed by Darrell Roodt and starring James Earl Jones and Richard Harris, was released in 1995.

Watch the trailer for the 1995 film here.

Your Students will love:

  • The importance of the setting
  • The themes of freedom, justice, and family

Students may have problems with:

  • Understanding the historical background and context of the novel

Available from Prestwick House


Cry, the Beloved Country — Paperback

Teaching Guides:

Literature Teaching Unit:

Teaching Unit

Downloadable Teaching Unit

30 Books + Teaching Unit

AP Teaching Unit:

AP Teaching Unit

Downloadable AP Teaching Unit

30 Books + AP Teaching Unit

Activity Pack:

Activity Pack

Downloadable Activity Pack

30 Books + Activity Pack

Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide:

Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide

Downloadable Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide

30 Books + Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide

Feminist Approach Mini-Guide

Formalist Approach Mini-Guide

New Historicism Approach Mini-Guide

Response Journal:

Response Journal

Downloadable Response Journal

30 Books + Response Journal

Complete Teacher's Kit:

Complete Teacher's Kit

30 Books + Complete Teacher's Kit

Other resources:

Novel Test (Downloadable PDF)

Other Prestwick House Teacher's Guides to Literature

Cry, the Beloved Country