Ngugi wa Thiong'o: Weep Not, Child

Weep Not, Child
by Ngugi wa Thiong‘o

The Author:

"To decolonize our minds we must not see our own experiences as little islands that are not connected with other processes."

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, a Kenyan writer of Gikuyu descent was born in Limuru, Kenya, in 1938. After attending Alliance high School in Kikuyu and Makere University in Uganda, Ngugi went to England to study at the University of Leeds. Afterwards he began a successful career writing in English, before turning to work almost entirely in his native Gikuyu.

His novel Weep Not, Child, was published in 1964, followed by other works including The River Between (1965) or Devil on The Cross (1980), which was written during the author’s one year detention in prison in Kenya. There he was held without a trial, because peasants and workers performed his play Ngaahika Ndeenda, which was his first work written in his native language.
Ngugi is an active campaigner for the African language. His works have a big impact on people living in Kenya or overseas. Furthermore the author thinks, that English in Africa is a "cultural bomb", that continues a process of erasing memories of pre - colonial cultures.

Main Characters:

• Njoroge: he is the main character of the book, a school boy, who wants to get as much
education as possible
• Ngotho: he is the father of Njoroge and the family leader
• Nyokabi and Njeri: they are the two wives of Ngotho
• Njoroge’s brother: Njoroge has three brothers called Boro, Kamau and Kori, who died in
World War II
• Mwihaki: throughout the book she gets the best friend of Njoroge, it is a relationship like
sisters and brothers normally have
• Jacobo: he is the only black landlord and the father of Mwikaki

The Plot:

The book "Weep not, Child", written by Ngugi, tells the story of a young boy called Njoroge and his way of living. The book is divided into two parts and eighteen chapters. Part one deals with the education of Njoroge, whereas part two informs the reader about the rising revolution in Kenya. In both parts the action is set in Kenya, which is also the home country of Ngugi.
The author did not use a complicated language, which made the book easy to read. Furthermore he utilizes dialogues throughout the whole book, what limbered up the reading.
The main themes of the book are the importance of education and the rising revolutionary ideas in countries, which are dominated by colonialists.

Njoroge, a young boy with black skin, is offered to go to school by his mother. It is a real privilege for him, because he is the first one out of his family, who is able to go to school. On the first day he is accompanied by Mwihaki, who is the daughter of a black landlord. She is a little pit older than Njoroge and has already been in school for one year. Njoroge admires her, because he knows, that Mwihaki does not have any real friends. Nevertheless she is always happy and does not seem to care about the present situation.
At home Njoroge’s family likes to sit together and tell stories to each other. One time Ngotho, the father of Njoroge, tells a very fascinating story. He says, that the land, which is now owned by the landlords originally belonged to their ancestors - White colonialists have taken the land from the blacks after World War II, even the blacks fought bravely in the war for the colonialists. In these days the hope is still alive, that in the future all the land is given back to them, and that the whites gonna give up the domination over their country.
In the following year Njoroge is very successful in school. He soon catches up with Mwihaki and goes to the same class than she does.
One day a big strike is announced, that should bring higher wages for the black workers. First Ngotho does not know if he should participate or not, because he risks to loose his job. Finally he decides to go to the gathering, even his two wives do not agree with him. At the demonstration many blacks are claiming for higher wages. Suddenly Jacobo, a black land owner and the father of Mwihaki appears. He tries to persuade the blacks to end their strike. In the following second Ngotho begins to attack Jacobo. The result is a big tumult, where two people get killed. Nevertheless Jacobo survives and swears revenge.
The relationship between Mwihaki and Njoroge is not disturbed by the fact, that their fathers are hating each other. They are still very good friends and remain successful in school. But from one day to the other they are separated, because Mwihaki continues her educational career at boarding school, which is for girls only. Njoroge stays in his hometown where he changes to another school.
The blacks focus their attention on the upcoming trial of Jomo. He is a black leader, who is often considered to be a God. Many blacks think, that he is going to bring back Kenya’s independence. But Jomo looses the trial and gets imprisoned. The result are protests against the suppression of the blacks.
Jacobo and a white landowner, named Mr. Howlands fight against the rising activities of the Mau Mau, a terrorist organization in Kenya. Therefore Jacobo accuses Ngotho of being the leader of the Mau Mau. He tries to imprison the whole family of Ngotho.
Meanwhile conditions are getting worse and worse. Six black men are taken out of their houses and are executed in the woods. In this way the white leaders try to foster their supremacy over the blacks.
One day Njoroge meets Mwihaki again, who returns form boarding school. Their friendship does not suffer under the dispute of their fathers, they still behave like brother and sister.
Then Njoroge passes a very important exam, which means that he is allowed to advance to High School. The whole village is proud of the intelligent young man. They collect enough money so that Njoroge is able to attend High School. Therefore he has to leave his hometown.
After a few months he gets informed about the killing of Mwihaki’s father Jacobo. He is murdered in his office by a member of the Mau Mau. By this time Njoroge does not think, that his family has got something to do with the murder. But as soon as he gets taken out of his new school by military troops, he realizes, that there is something wrong.
After a few days in prison Njoroge is released. He returns home to his family, where he finds his father Ngotho, who is badly injured. Njoroge gets to know, that his father just protects his eldest son Boro, who has committed the murder. One week later Ngotho dies.
Boro, the real leader of the Mau Mau and Njoroge’s brother, kills Mr. Howlands, who is another important landlord of the village. Therefore he gets put into prison and later on he is executed.
Another brother of Njoroge called Kamau has also been imprisoned for lifetime. Only Njoroge and his two mothers remain free.
Njoroge now searches the support of Mwihaki, but she is angry, because of her father’s death. So he finally wants to leave the town, but his two mothers hold him back. He falls into their arms. The last thing he thinks is, that he is a coward, because he could not change the social system.

Personal Opinion:

I think, that Ngugi’s work "Weep Not, Child", is written in a confusing way. On the one hand the author draws the readers attention on education, but on the other hand he describes the rise of the revolution in Kenya. These two themes cannot be united, and so it is very difficult to write a good summary about the book. Furthermore I did not like, that many things were not related to the plot. Ngugi never explained why certain things happened, what was a little pit confusing for me.
Nevertheless Ngugi tries to face realistic problems, which occurred in Kenya after World War II. But these problems belong to the past, they are somehow outdated.
As a final statement I can say, that this book does not fit for every person. The reader should be interested in Africa and its’ culture. I would not recommend this book to readers, whose interests are completely different.

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