Ngugi wa Thiago’s “Weep Not, Child” exemplifies the place of family in an individual’s life through the eyes of the protagonist. ‘Family’ is the heart and soul of the society in which Njoroge lives.
Njoroge’s family lives in then Mahua Village, has Ngotho as the head .He is the final authority and the one who has the final say in 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. Hoever, 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.
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. ”For if you have a stable centre, then the family will hold.”
Njoroge is very affectionate towards all the members in the family. Njoroge stood on the hill when he wanted to see his mother and brother to help them It did not matter if it was Njeri or any of her sons. Njoroge is more intimate towards Kamau and there develops a deep bond between them He hated Nairobibecause ”brothers were lured by the city.” He had lost enough brothers and did not want to lose any more, especially Kamau. He also feels the deficiency of a sister, and wishes that Mwihaki were his sister. Boro has changed after the war, but it is mainly as he has lost Mwangi, his brother. No revolution is justified unless it can bring back a brother according to him. All the members of the family are united in the belief that education is the panacea for all their problems. Kori and Kamau do their best to educate their brother. Ngotho and Nyokabi are very happy, and believe that the education of Njoroge will put them on an equal footing with the Howlands and the Jacobos. A deep bond is revealed between the parents and the children. Njoroge is very much attached to his mother Njeri ,and he believes that as long as his father was alive ,all is right with the world. The mother-son relationship is another aspect that Ngugi Wa Thiong’o portrays in his other novels like Mugumo,And the Rain came down etc.
Alike the family, the society also believed in the fact that only if education comes will the colonized be on an equal footing with the colonizers. When Njoroge passes secondary school, he becomes not only the child of the family, but of the whole society. However, Boro thinks differently. He feels that their ideology is not the solution to the problem the ultimate solution as per him is “land”.Only then,will the natives be able to firmly establish themselves in their own soil. Also as per the prophecy, people were waiting for their land to be freed by a saviour Boro feels that all those prophecies were superstitious. When the war came to an end, Boro had come home, no longer a boy; but as a man of experience to find that there would be no employment.
The ideology of Boro and that of the other members of the family form as opposing forces. The same proportion of the opposing forces can be seen in the society. Only a few people believe that land is necessary for their liberation. The educated people were being absorbed into the new urban elite rather than into some collective redemption of the people. The family of the Jacobos represent this strata of society .His family consists of his family Julian and their three children. Lucia, a school teacher, John, a student in theUSand Mwihaki. The colonizers are represented by the family of the Howlands, his wife and their children Little is mentioned regarding one, the other being a nun and the youngest Stephen, who is of Njoroge’s age. Howland marries Sussana not because he loved her but as he wanted any English lady who would settle down with him inAfrica. He is not sincere to his wife and uses black women as commodities to satiate his sexual desires. As a result of colonizers like Mr.Howlands, there was another part of the society which consisted of hybrid individuals. Of these, the white ones did not suffer as much as the black offsprings did.
The meeting of Njoroge and Stephen Howland suggests the meeting of the colonizer and colonized in the earlier stage. The seeds of hatred have not yet blossomed. Their interaction is pure and innocent. It is the society and in turn the upbringing that sows the seeds of hatred and mistrust in them.
When we speak of relationship of the family with the community, we may consider the influence of the community on the family. Any force,be it religious, social, political or economical, if it affects the community, it affects the family, especially the ones n the middle and lower strata of society. The political movements in the country move into the core of Ngotho’s family. His son “dares” to speak against him. Boro tells him in the face that he is being submissive to the whites. He forces him to take the Mau-mau oath. However, Ngotho is too reluctant to heed to “listen” to him and tells him not to intrude. Nevertheless, Ngotho becomes disillusioned later and becomes submissive, and feels the cowardice in himself. He accepts that fact that Jacobos will take his land; and he too becomes another cog in the wheel of society. Owing to the politica chaos, Ngotho loses two of his sons, one to the Second World War and another to the turmoil prevalent in the country. Again Ngotho becomes beomes unsteady regarding the strike and for the first time, Njoroge sees his father quarrelling with his mother. Religion also influences the family as part of the communal forces.
© Rukhaya MK 2012
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