Using Ngotho's family as an example
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As Ngugi notes on several occasions, race is not the only obstacle that prevents the characters from pursuing their goals in life. They are arguably even more hampered by their social class. This applies to poor characters like Kamau, who must persist with the carpentry apprenticeship he dislikes in order to support his family. However, even upper-class characters find that their upbringing prevents them from being truly free. For example, Mwihaki's affection for Njoroge is hampered by her famiy's wealth, and the expectations that come from that. Similarly, Stephen Howlands must attend boarding school in England even though he feels more at home in Kenya, and does not want to leave. Njoroge has a great hope that education will help bridge the gap of social class, but circumstances cede his education before he can test that theory.
Njoroge turns to many different sources of comfort as conditions deteriorate in his village: school, religion, and his love for Mwihaki are some examples. Yet the only force that stands between him and suicide at the end of the book is his sense of duty to his mothers, who will be alone and destitute if he dies. Mwihaki rejects him because she, too, must care for her mother. For Ngugi, family loyalty is the ultimate bond. One of the primary challenges his characters face is deciding how to best stay loyal to their family in a time of conflict and contradictions. Boro is a particularly complex example of this question. Ngotho orders him to stop fighting with the Mau Mau, but Boro feels he must continue in order to avenge his father's death, and to fight for a better future for his younger siblings. Whether to defend one's family by immediately providing or by fighting for their progeny (in terms of rebellion or, in Njoroge's case, education) is a question posed, but not answered, by the novel.