I Will Marry When I Want

I Will Marry When I Want Summary and Analysis of Act II, Scene II


It is evening at Kĩoi’s house, which is elegant and well furnished. Jezebel, Helen, and Ndugĩre are sitting at the dinner table. Kĩoi is talking with Ikuua wa Nditika, a man with a huge belly. Jezebel asks if he might not stay for a bite but he laughs and says he left his Range Rover and driver and needs to get home. He reminds Kĩoi about the insecticide factory and says they must get a poor man’s land where no one important lives nearby. He says they can use someone else’s name on the paperwork so no one gets angry at them.

Jezebel criticizes his “unbecoming” (76) words, but Ikuua only laughs and mentions wanting to marry a third time and how he must leave now but will come back.

After he leaves, Ndugĩre asks if their son John has come back from Mombasa. Kĩoi says no, and talks about the hotel he wants to build there. So many tourists are coming to Kenya that a hotel is a good investment. He also complains of workers and how they “are like the ogres said to have two insatiable mouths” (78), always asking for more pay or advances. Jezebel says they have too many kids and never go to family clinics.

All agree that the poor who complain are merely bad Christians, and that they ought to pray for them. Jezebel concedes she does not blame them because most cannot read or write.

Kĩoi adds that their churches are places where Mau Mau dissenters used to live. Ndugĩre asks fearfully if Kĩgũũnda is one of those, but Kĩoi says he is not that type and is respected and feared by his workers, which is why is important to get him saved.

As they remember the Mau Mau, a knock is heard at the door. All are fearful, but are relieved when it turns out to just be Kĩgũũnda and Wangeci. Kĩgũũnda says they have come to talk, but Kĩoi explains they will eat first.

A servant passes by with tea and Wangeci reaches out for a cup, but the servant quickly moves away. Wangeci is humiliated. Jezebel says that they only have food for invited guests.

Kĩgũũnda explains that water, not food, is actually their biggest problem nowadays, and how it has all dried up. Jezebel orders a servant to fetch water from the drum near the pigsty outside while Ndugĩre cluelessly natters on about how water is good for one’s health and how much he drinks of it.

The rich couples say a prayer for their food, thanking Jesus for providing for them.

Everyone then moves into positions to talk. Kĩoi asks why they are there, and Kĩgũũnda replies that they are ready to accept the views on the matter of the wedding. Everyone sings and claps joyfully.

Kĩgũũnda adds that there is a problem: he and Wangeci cannot afford the wedding. The others scoff, and say it is not that expensive and that they only need a few things: fees for the priest, robes for the bride and a suit for the groom, clothes for the wedding party, food, drinks, the cake, rings, flowers, etc. Wangeci asks where they are to get the money for such things, and Kĩoi says, puzzled, that Kĩgũũnda makes a lot of money.

Kĩgũũnda protests, saying two hundred shillings a month is not a lot at all, and he has many things to buy, such as clothes, food, water, etc. Kĩoi responds that only he and the tractor driver make that much, and the old tractor driver never complains. Kĩgũũnda says he does not want a loan, just wants to know how to pay for the wedding. Kĩoi tells him he is wealthy, and has land and a full-time job and others would be grateful for that.

The rich couples talk about China as a land that gives out things for free, but how it is godless since it got rid of the rich people. Kenya is lucky because it is a Christian nation. Kĩoi adds that he will help Kĩgũũnda, and has two ideas. The first is to sell his land to the insecticide factory, but Kĩgũũnda interjects and says he will never sell his land. Kĩoi is slightly miffed but says his second idea would work too, which is to get a loan from the bank (of which he is the director). He boasts that he will vouch for Kĩgũũnda’s integrity, a magnanimous gesture that Helen and Ndugĩre praise.

Kĩgũũnda says it does not matter whether he borrows from him or the bank, and they will go now. His title-deed will be used as collateral.


In this scene derides the Kenyan elite. It paints Kĩoi, Jezebel, Ndugĩre, and Helen in the broadest, most obnoxious and cringe-worthy strokes. Their grotesqueness is heightened to the extent that it is comical; they are less like actual individuals and more of a type.

First, their version of Christianity is absurd. They utterly ignore the actual teachings of Jesus in terms of his upholding humility, compassion, and support for one’s fellow man, and instead smugly proclaim themselves blessed by God in their wealth and high station in life. They do not consider the sayings of Jesus dealing with rich men having trouble getting into heaven, or how worthy the poor are in God’s eyes. They instead exhibit the most ignorant assumptions that they are God’s chosen people even though their behavior, thoughts, and words are far from godly. An apt literary comparison is The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, in which Douglass excoriates the white slaveholders for their hypocritical and inauthentic version of Christianity in which they anoint themselves as saved and blessed but indulge in the grossest of inhumane behaviors.

These rich characters use the rhetoric of religion to feign, or actually develop, ignorance regarding the true state of things in Kenya. Jezebel stupidly says that “This business of not being satisfied, / And of not being contented with one’s station in life / As clearly ordained by God, / Comes from not being a good Christian” (78-79), which ignores the daily struggles of the impoverished. They also firmly believe that their Christianity is the correct version, and start to convince themselves that some of the indigenous churches are dangerous: “Don’t you remember that / Mau Mau oaths used to be taken / Under the cover of those churches?” (79.) Although it does not happen in the text, it is not difficult to imagine them advocating that all of those churches be shut down. This is particularly ironic in light of Gĩcaamba’a earlier assertions that those indigenous churches were actually not revolutionary and in fact encouraged their parishioners to surrender to the whites. Finally, the prayer uttered before the food consumed indicates just how callous and ignorant Kĩoi and the others are: after refusing to share their food with Wangeci and Kĩgũũnda, Jezebel prays, “Let’s now say a prayer / to thank God for the food / We have just eaten” (82).

This callousness is also observed in the conversation about water had by the dinner party guests. After Kĩgũũnda and Wangeci bemoan their lack of water, Ndugĩre, in a superior and self-satisfied way, goes on about how important water is and how much of it he drinks. It is an utterly galling moment, and while only a minor scene, completely exemplary of the need for the class struggle.

Adding to this is the absurdity regarding the proposed wedding between Kĩgũũnda and Wangeci. After they tell everyone they do not have money to do this thing that, deep down, they do not even feel the need to do and is openly insulting to their culture and relationship, Kĩoi announces in a gratuitously ignorant way that “Kĩgũũnda earns a lot of money” (85) and that he is a “very wealthy man, / Only that you don’t care to know: / You have a lot of land, one and a half acres. / You have a full-time job. / How many thousands who in kenya today / Cannot boast about a space large enough for a grave even?” (86.) These words are ingenious, as they are hard to dispute, but are, of course, entirely manipulative and do not embody the actual truth of the situation for the poor in Kenya.

By the end of this scene, the dramatic irony is hard for the audience to bear. In order to finance this wedding, Kĩgũũnda is going to borrow money from the bank where Kĩoi presides over, using his precious title-deed as collateral. It is very clear that things are not going to end well for Kĩgũũnda, which proves to be the case. Kĩgũũnda’s using his deed is a low moment for him, as it is a betrayal of his country, his people, and himself. He has chosen to relinquish the land he worked for so assiduously, the land he cherished so ardently, in order to give in to the whims and schemes of a fat cat traitor. He has accepted their assertion that his original wedding was not valid, that his religion is sinful, and that his own way of conceiving of and living his life is flawed. The outcome and the question of whether or not he is redeemed will be discussed in the next summary/analysis, but at the end of this act Ngugi has certainly ratcheted up the tension and the stakes.