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Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: Weep Not, Child

his novel was the first of Ngugi’s novels to be published, though the second that he wrote. The title comes from Whitman’s On the Beach at Night. The protagonist is Njoroge, a young man in many ways like Waiyaki in The River Between. He is the son of Ngotho, who is the farm manager for a white settler, Howlands. For Ngotho, it is the land that is all important. The creation myth, which we will also see in The River Between, where Murungu gave the land to the first man and woman, is key to him and he cries out What happened, O Murungu, to the land which you gave to us?. And he has the answer – first plague and drought and then the white man, particularly after World War I when they had helped the British and their reward was to lose their land. He now has to work on the land once owned by his ancestors and lives as a tenant farmer on the land of Jacobo, an African farmer who has done well by keeping in with the British.

The background to this novel is The Mau Mau Uprising and, though Njoroge does not participate, he and his family are affected by it. Njoroge goes off to school and does very well. Meanwhile, his brother, Boro, joins the Mau Mau uprising, while Njoroge falls in love with Jacobo’s daughter. When Jacobo, who is assisting Howlands, who is now a district officer responsible for suppressing the uprising, is killed by Boro, Ngotho takes responsibility and is tortured to death by Howlands who is, in turn, killed by Boro. Njoroge is blamed and he too is tortured and, more particularly, denied schooling and a job. The novel ends with Njoroge returning to his mother but with few future prospects.

Publishing history

First published 1964 by Heinemann