BOOK REVIEW : Weep Not, Child Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

The novel follows Njoroge through his childhood. Njoroge’s family which lives in the Mahua Village, has Ngotho as the head and he is final on all matters. He has two wives, Njeri and Nyokabi, of whom Njeri is the first wife and elder one.

The novel follows Njoroge through his childhood. Njoroge’s family which lives in the Mahua Village, has Ngotho as the head and he is final on all matters.

He has two wives, Njeri and Nyokabi, of whom Njeri is the first wife and elder one. Boro, Kori and Kamau are born of the first wife, while Mwangi and Njoroge are born of the second. Boro was a soldier in the Second World War and is a disillusioned individual.

Kori works at the Green Hotel and Kamau is an apprentice to Nganga, the carpenter. Mwangi was killed in the Second World War and Njoroge is the only son of Nyokabi.

However, there is a close affinity between the brothers and towards their mother. Njeri was always called ‘our’ or ‘my elder mother’, while Nyokabi was just mother. It was a habit observed and accepted by all.

This is the period of the rise of the independence movement and then the Mau Mau struggle in Kenya for independence. The book is a powerful look at the effects of this war on individuals and families, as well as a look at the effects of colonialism.

It starts of on such a hopeful note with Njoroge’s mother telling him that he will get to go to school. The rest of the story, in a way, follows his dream and his years in school and the eventual ramifications of the war on his studies.

The husband in the family displays his emotions towards the wives and children unlike Okonkwo in “Things Fall Apart”. Ngotho jokes with his wives and discusses matters with them. He is a successful husband from the point of view of society as there is perfect harmony between his wives.

There is an instance when he buys two pounds of meat, one for his first wife Njeri and the other for Nyokabi. From his point of view, unless he was fair to them, it was enough to generate a civil war in the family. But his wives were good companions.

Yet, Ngotho had an uneasy feeling regarding them, as in his opinion, women were fickle and jealous in nature His house was famous for the prevailing peace. “The feeling of oneness was a thing that most distinguished Ngotho’s household from other polygamous families.”

The ladies divided jobs among themselves and went to the market together. The success was attributed to Ngotho.

Jomo Kenyatta, the first prime minister of Kenya, is immortalized in to be like a messiah in the book in which he says, “Jomo had been his hope. Ngotho had come to think that it was Jomo who would drive away the white man. To him, Jomo stood for custom and traditions purified by grace of learning and much travel.”

The novel integrates Gikuyu mythology and the ideology of nationalism that serves as catalyst for much of the novel’s action.

Weep Not, Child is Ngũgĩ’s first novel, was the first English novel to be published by an East African in 1964.

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