Weep Not, Child

Displacement and Development: Thiong’o’s Construction of a Bildungsroman

In his powerful novel Weep Not, Child, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o paints a haunting portrait of the heated anti-colonial protestation and excruciating violence of British-occupied Kenya. The crippling dehumanization of Kenya’s citizens by British colonizers, through which Kenyans experienced not only significant depletions of legal rights but also implied and overt racism, led to widespread emotionally- charged uprisings including the notorious Mau Mau rebellion. The ensuing confusion serves as the premise for Thiong’o’s narrative, in which each character, specifically young Njoroge, must decide how to feel and whom to trust. As a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age novel, Weep Not, Child, follows Njoroge’s profound experiences with loss and his eventual interpretation of and reaction to these losses. In the same way that the main character of a bildungsroman novel typically undergoes a gradual, sacrificial process of maturation in which he ultimately must come to terms with his losses, Njoroge must endure the loss of his optimism, which antecedently served as the glue for his composure in the face of such traumatic, disquieting events. Njoroge must then determine how to respond to this bereavement, which severely damages the foundation...

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