I Will Marry When I Want

I Will Marry When I Want Summary and Analysis of Act III


Scene 1

It is Kĩgũũnda’s house. Everything looks different -- there is new furniture everywhere, and there is a religious placard in place of the title-deed. Kĩgũũnda and Wangeci are filled with excitement as they organize everything. They try on their wedding clothes and praise each other’s new look.

They pretend to go through their wedding ceremony, starting to walk down the aisle to a choir. There is a pretend play, they exchange pretend rings, and they make fun of people giving fake speeches (people like a woman who always talks of her own wedding but then cries).

They wonder what the Kĩois will give them as a gift. They then pretend cut the cake.

Suddenly Gathoni bursts in, crying and devastated. She says she has been jilted by John because he found out she is pregnant. Kĩgũũnda yells that he told her not to go to Mombasa, but Wangeci is more even-keeled, and says they will go talk to Kĩoi, who is good and Christian and will want the children to get married first.

Scene 2

It is Kĩoi’s house, where he and Ikuua count money and checks. The latter says he has to go meet foreigners at the airport, and explains that a neighbor of Kĩgũũnda sold his land to make way for the factory. He assumes someday Kĩgũũnda will as well.

After Ikuua leaves there is frantic knocking on the door, and Kĩoi opens it to see Wangeci and Kĩgũũnda, back to wearing their normal clothes. They tell him what happened, but Kĩoi is furious, calling Gathoni a prostitute and his son a godly man.

Shocked, Kĩgũũnda says they will take it to the laugh, but Kĩoi only laughs and says the law and courts are not on his side. Kĩgũũnda pulls out his sword in rage and yells that it was the rich man's son who lured his daughter away and “this sword is my law and my court / Poor people’s lawcourt” (101).

He orders Kĩoi to get down on all fours like a beast. He begs not to be killed, and Wangeci is afraid. Kĩgũũnda says he does not want to kill him, but to make him sign an agreement. He spits out that at this moment no amount of gold would ever let his daughter marry Kĩoi’s son.

At this moment a watchman and the Ndugĩre couple come in. The watchman furiously blows a whistle when he sees what is happening. Jezebel emerges with a gun. She advances toward Kĩgũũnda and he finally drops his sword.

As he and Wangeci turn to leave, he looks back as if to get the sword, and Jezebel fires. He falls.

Scene 3

Kĩgũũnda’s hut. He is not home. Wangeci sits with Njooki and Gĩcaamba. Most of the new things are gone, and the title-deed is still not on the wall.

Wangeci cries that Gathoni has gone to become a barmaid and her husband is drunk all the time. Gĩcaamba tells her not to worry about Gathoni, and says that their country has oppressed women too much and that women participated in the independence movement.

Wangeci mourns Kĩgũũnda’s absence, and that he has lost his land. Surprised, her friends ask what happened. Wangeci explains that the bank came calling for the loan, and the land was auctioned off. It happened today, she says.

Kĩgũũnda enters, very drunk. Wangeci harangues him, and the two criticize each other. Wangeci says she was not the one who wanted to get a bank loan, and Kĩgũũnda says she was the one who wanted a church wedding, “And all because of looking down upon our culture!” (109.)

They try to attack each other and their friends hold them off, telling them they must not fight among themselves.

Kĩgũũnda agrees, saying that from now on he will see Kĩoi as his true enemy. He tells them that Kĩoi bought the land. He went to it to say goodbye, but found Kĩoi and several whites there, who laughed at him as he fled.

Those who sang in Act I return to sing of crushing the devils of robbery and oppression. The leader asks for a haraambe to build a church and Wangeci gives money. They sing a song of harvest and thanks.

Gĩcaamba ruminates on how difficult all of this is, and how all of these people are the same as they take from the poor. He remembers being part of the Mau Mau and how they shared everything with each other. He keeps talking, and everyone repeats as if they are taking a vow. He says that their nation took a wrong turn when people forgot the vows, and turned to taking others’ things and selling to foreigners. Africans are now often overseers, allowing outsiders to exploit and grab and oppress. All of these are eaters of their religion, their hymn, and their prayer. The workers and peasants need to wake up.

He continues, saying they must ask who are their friends and who are their enemies. They must unite. They cannot end poverty by erecting churches or beer-halls; they must “unite in patriotic love” (114).

Singing begins. The soloist heralds the trumpet and all sing of it being blown to wake everyone up. The trumpet of the masses has been blown; the trumpet of the poor has been blown. They are tired of being robbed and exploited, tired of slavery and land grabs, and charity and abuse. Organization will be their shield, gun, war, club, sword, light, and wealth. The trumpet of the workers has finally been blown.


The play comes to end with a clarion call for revolution, for a fight against the Kenyan elites and the rapacious foreigners. Kĩgũũnda and Wangeci’s humiliation at the hands of the Kĩois (the loss of their land, Gathoni’s rejection, the gunshot, the mocking) has finally given them the clarity they need to join with Gĩcaamba and Njooki in their righteous and just class struggle. Gĩcaamba provides much more fodder for this in his diatribes against the rich, and in his reminiscences of his Mau Mau days in which everyone worked together to secure independence. This is an explicitly Marxist ending, and one that offers some hope after all of the deleterious things that the protagonists experienced of late. There is not too much hope that they will succeed, but Ngugi ends the play on an inspirational note and leaves the future of the characters and their struggle open for the audience/readers to imagine.

By the end of the play, another theme besides class struggle demands discussion: gender. Scholar Evan Maina Mwangi offers a fascinating account of the way Ngugi discusses gender in his plays, opening his article with the assertion that the playwright’s writing is “packed with phallic symbols that are used to structure overtly political themes. It also presents the theme of performance to register gendered social perceptions…[there is] an intermingling of sexual and political language.” He notes that the main themes in I Will Marry When I Want concern issues of neocolonialism and class struggle, but that gender is a subtheme. He notes that gender inequality and Ngugi’s views on it pop up throughout the text, and are more nuanced than in his earlier works.

Mwangi asserts that while female characters like Wangeci, Gathoni, and Njooki are more positively drawn, the play often “contradicts the positive image of women it presents.” Within the text, marriage and family are seen as of the utmost importance. Gathoni is a counterpoint to this, as she is a “voice of protest against capitalist hegemony,” but her mother is, quite obviously, the voice of tradition. The way Wangeci is depicted is almost wholly negative. She comes across as shrill and takes Kĩgũũnda’s attention away from the more important struggle to focus on pettier affairs. Mwangi sees Ngugi “suggesting that reason is an exclusively male domain”, and also preferring to silence his female characters. This is most explicit when Gĩcaamba and Njooki come to visit, and the women’s conversation is both trivial and then cut off for the audience so the men can talk. Even Njooki, who is depicted as more radical and smarter, comes across as rather ignorant when she chides Gĩcaamba for his rumormongering and loudness. Mwangi writes, “the women's arguments are invalidated by their call to silence in the male struggle against social evils” and that Wangeci’s comments supporting silence are “unsophisticated in [their] justification of complacency and compliance with the status quo.” She comes across as an “unsophisticated peasant who is yet to understand the values of the workers’ collective campaign against capitalism.”

Another way to look at gender in the play is the way in which land is discussed. Kĩgũũnda compares his pride for his land to his pride for his penis, and, as Mwangi points out, Gathoni’s “sexual exploitation by the rich man’s son parallels Kĩgũũnda’s exploitation by the rich man for whom he works."

Despite the traditional patriarchal gender views expressed by Ngugi, his text isn’t that simple. A more progressive view is embodied by Gĩcaamba, who states outright that gender equality is important for Kenya: “We oppressed women / Giving ourselves numerous justifications” (105); “Do you think it was only the men / Who fought for Kenya’s independence?” (105); “Blessings come to a people… / Uniting in toil / And sharing without greed, / and without discrimination between sexes!” (71.) Mwangi isn’t entirely convinced, seeing this perspective not actually reflected in the actions of the play, in which “the focus remains on the home” and Gathoni, the only character who might augur these new gender roles, is exiled from the home and absent from the play’s conclusion.