What do you want to do with that title-deed? / Why do you always gaze at it / As if it was a title for a thousand ares?
Wangeci's sarcasm aside, this is an important opening line to the play because it establishes the essential conflict of the drama: the struggle of one man to retain his lands (and by extension, his autonomy and significance) in the face of a rapacious rich man. This mirrors the larger struggle faced by Kenyans in the post-colonial era, in which the poor must decide whether or not to resist the encroachments of the rich and their foreign allies.
Poverty has no heroes, / He who judges knows not how he will be judged.
Uttered in response to Wangeci's derision for a drunk man, Kĩgũũnda here displays wisdom and perspicacity. He does not condemn the man for his dissolute behavior, but rather seeks to understand how he got there. The loss of his job is what is responsible for his drinking, not some intrinsic flaw. This scene is also a foreshadowing one, as Kĩgũũnda will suffer his own job loss and will turn to drink later in the text. Even though Kĩgũũnda was rather stupid in falling for Kĩoi's manipulations, we are still sympathetic to the character, as he himself is here.
It’s all the modern children. / They have no manners at all.
This play isn't entirely about class struggle, for there are other themes that permeate the text, such as the one this quote indicates: modernity vs. tradition. Here, Gathoni's parents lament their modern child's lack of manners, as they see it. They do not like her insolent attitude or her assertion that she will marry when she wants. They do not like that she prefers the frippery of clothes and shoes to respecting her elders and her traditions. This frustration is an understandable lamentation in most circumstances, but here it resonates in particular because the implication is that modernity is tied to Western values and mores; thus, Gathoni isn't just a wayward teen, but also someone betraying her own people. Of course, what complicates this is that her assertion of marrying when she wants is a feminist one, and thus is commendable.
The difference between then and now is this! / We now have our independence!
Wangeci is an interesting character, one who vacillates from one perspective to the other throughout the text with respect to independence, class struggle, her family's relationship with Kĩoi and Jezebel, and more. She occasionally speaks about not having any money and being wary of foreigners, but is quick to become annoyed when her husband and friends wax poetic about revolution and when she thinks acting out again will harm her chances for comfort and her daughter's chances for a good marriage. While her views are understandable, the playwright does not seem to sympathetic to them and the audience/reader is left annoyed at Wangeci's naive and almost obstructionist attitude.
Aren't they the real bedbugs, / Local watchmen for the foreign robbers? / When they see a poor man’s property their mouths water, / When they get their own, their mouths dry up! / Don’t they have any lands / They can share with these foreigners / Whom they have invited back into the country / To desecrate the land?
In contrast to the previous quote, this is one of Wangeci's most boldly radical statements about how despicable the Kenyan elite is. What makes them so terrible is their affiliation with the foreigners who once held sway over their land in the days before independence. It is unforgivable, the play suggests, for Kenyans to betray their country and their culture in pursuit of wealth because it means they will have to work with these avaricious foreigners. Accepting the foreigners' help and modeling themselves on foreigners is akin to forgetting one's history. They are, as Wangeci proclaims, as low of creatures as bedbugs.
Religion is the alcohol of the soul! / Religion is the poison of the mind!
As an explicitly Marxist text, it is unsurprising that there is a commentary on the effect of religion. As Karl Marx himself believed, religion can dull revolution. It can lull men into being complacent with their mean existence, or can be used to make them feel guilty about pushing back against it. Here, Christianity is also a foreign import, giving it an even more ignominious quality.
I’ll always help this organization, / With my strength and property, / I’ll help members of this organization, / So that if a bean falls to the ground / We split it among ourselves
The metaphor of the bean being shared is one that points to the necessity for community, shared by the Mau Mau in the fight for Kenyan independence and the characters banding together in the class struggle. In contrast to people like Kĩoi and foreigners, these Kenyans value working together, sharing, and uniting in a powerful and important cause. They do not allow their greed and competitiveness to overshadow their interest in fighting the good fight and in bringing about positive change. This is a typically Communist sentiment, contrasting to Western capitalism.
It’s better to sometimes cover up our eating habits / Rather than show the poor our mastications!
Ikuua wa Nditika is a grotesque character. He is loud, corpulent, and pleasure-seeking. He has been married several times and seems to be concerned only with money and leisure. He is the antithesis of the protagonists of the play in his excessiveness. However, as this quote suggests, he also states openly what he is doing and what he wants. His greed and his machinations are laid bare for all to see. This contrasts him to the slippery Kĩoi, who hides his true desires and beliefs under a mask of being proper, staid, and morally upright. No one coming to Ikuua would have any doubt as to how that man would respond, but Kĩgũũnda and Wangeci are fooled by Kĩoi for a time because of the way he carries himself. Kĩoi is much more dangerous than Ikuua because of this.
Go and fetch water from the drum outside, / You know the one near the pig-sty.
This line is exemplary of the sneering, snobby, and downright cruel attitude of Jezebel and her ilk toward her poor countrymen. By calling on her servant to bring water from a drum that is located near a pigsty, she is expressing her belief that these non-guests are as low as the animals and are not worthy of being treated like human beings. Jezebel may not have as much of a direct impact on the incomes and economic situation of the characters, but these sorts of comments go a long way in demonstrating the pervasiveness of the gulf between rich and poor and the need for the latter to seek a new social order.
The trumpet of the masses has been blown.
The last lines of the play are a clarion call for reform, for organization, for struggle, for community. After their incredible humiliation and downfall, Kĩgũũnda and Wangeci have no other options than to join with their friends in the class struggle. They recognize that, in their numbers and in their passion, they have the possibility to bring about change. These lines are Marxist, expressing the need for the violent revolution to overthrow the bourgeoisie. They also recall the Kenyan independence struggle.
I Will Marry When I Want Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for I Will Marry When I Want is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.