Alan Paton’s seminal work, Cry, the Beloved Country, has earned a distinction as one of the most important novels in South Africa’s history. It is recognized by literary pundits and readers alike, hence, its inclusion in many must-read lists. Its vivid dissection of the conditions leading to the Apartheid made it a seminal literary piece. Another facet of the book that I liked was Paton’s prose, which further complemented the story. The novel was brimming with memorable and quotable lines and passages. I have rounded some of these lines that have made an impression on me. Without more ado, here are some quotable quotes from Cry, the Beloved Country.

Do check out my complete review of this literary work by clicking here.


“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear. 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 if he gives too much.”

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

He had come to tell his brother that power corrupts, that a man who fights for justice must himself be cleansed and purified, that love is greater than force. And none of these things had he done. God have mercy on me, Christ have mercy on me. He turned to the door, but it was locked and bolted. Brother had shut out brother, from the same womb had they come.

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

But there is only one that thing that has power completely , and that is love. Because when a man loves, he seeks no power, and therefore has power. I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it.

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

“There is not much talking now. A silence falls upon them all. This is no time to talk of hedges and fields, or the beauties of any cuontry. Sadness and fear and hate, how they well up in the heart and mind, whenever one opens pages of these messengers of doom. Cry for the broken tribe, for the law, and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end. The sun pours down on the earth, on the lovely land that man cannot enjoy. He knows only the fear of his heart.”

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

Who indeed knows the secret of the earthly pilgrimage? Who knows for what we live, and struggle, and die? Who knows what keeps us living and struggling, while all things break about us? Who knows why the warm flesh of a child is such comfort, when one’s own child is lost and cannot be recovered? Wise men write many books, in words too hard to understand. But this, the purpose of our lives, the end of all our struggle, is beyond all human wisdom.

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

Would age now swiftly overtake him? Would this terrible nodding last now for all his days, so that men said aloud in his presence, it is nothing, he is old and does nothing but forget? And would he nod as though he too were saying, Yes, it is nothing, I am old and do nothing but forget? But who would know what he said, I do nothing but remember?

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

“I say we shall always have native crime to fear until the native people of this country have worthy goals to work for. For it is only because they see niether purpose nor goal that they turn to drink and crime and prostitution. Which do we prefer, a law-abiding, industrious and purposeful native people, or a lawless, idle and purposeless people? The truth is that we do not know, for we fear them both. And so long as we vacillate, so long will we pay dearly for the dubious pleasure of not having to make up our minds. And the answer does not lie, except temporarily, in more police and more protection.”

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

And what was there evil in their desires, in their hunger? That men should walk upright in the land where they were born, and be free to use the fruits of the earth, what was there evil in it? Yet men were afraid, with a fear that was deep, deep in the heart, a fear so deep that they hid their kindness, or brought it out with fierceness and anger, and hit it behind fierce and frowning eyes. They were afraid because they were so few. And such fear could not be cast out, but by love.

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

Then he gave himself over to deep and earnest prayer, and after each petition he raised his eyes and looked to the east. And the east lightened and lightened, till he knew that the time was not far off. And when he expected it, he rose to his feet and took off his hat and laid it down on the earth, and clasped his hands before him. And while he stood there the sun rose in the east.

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

The great red hills stand desolate, and the earth has torn away like flesh. The lightning flashes over them, the clouds pour down upon them, the dead streams come to life, full of the red blood of the earth. Down in the valleys women scratch the soil that is left, and the maize hardly reaches the height of a man. They are valleys of old men and old women, of mothers and children. The men are away, the young men and the girls are away. The soil cannot keep them any more.

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

Have no doubt it is fear in the land. For what can men do when so many have grown lawless? Who can enjoy the lovely land, who can enjoy the seventy years, and the sun that pours down on the earth, when there is fear in the heart? Who can walk quietly in the shadow of the jacarandas, when their beauty is grown to danger? Who can lie peacefully abed, while the darkness holds some secret? What lovers can lie sweetly under the stars, when menace grows with the measure of their seclusion?

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

Ndotsheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there also. For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But When that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret.

~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country