Weep Not, Child

Weep Not, Child Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-12


Chapter 11

As conditions continue to deteriorate and daily life becomes more dangerous, Kamau becomes the family’s main support. Njoroge, still in school, often thinks of Mwihaki, whom he has not seen since the riot several years before. One day, Kamau tells Njoroge that six villagers, including Nganga and the barber, have been taken into the woods and murdered.

One day, Mwihaki, home from boarding school on a vacation, surprises Njoroge as he is walking along the road. She has become a beautiful young woman, and Njoroge realizes that he must also appear more mature than he had before. They talk briefly, and Mwihaki asks Njoroge to spend more time with her. She gains his sympathy by confessing that everyone in the village avoids her because she is Jacobo’s daughter. Njoroge reluctantly agrees to attend church with her.

Two days later, they walk to church together. When they arrive, their old teacher Isaka – who has become a Revivalist – reads a selection from the Book of Matthew about enduring hardship. After church, Mwihaki invites Njoroge into her home. Jacobo arrives unexpectedly, and wishes Njoroge good luck in school, explaining that Njoroge's generation will have to rebuild Kenya. Njoroge is briefly pleased at the attention, but grows uncomfortable when the sight of Jacobo’s bodyguards reminds him of the dead barber.

Mwihaki and Njoroge discuss how Kenya has changed in the past few years. Mwihaki wonders why Jesus did not prevent the violence in their country. Njoroge, unshaken by her doubts, replies that God works in mysterious ways. They speculate about whether the Gikuyu are being punished for someone’s sins. Mwihaki proposes they run away together, adding that she “could be such a nice sister” to Njoroge (104).

Njoroge immediately argues the foolishness of the plan, but Mwihaki quickly assures him that she was joking. However, she promises to rejoin him once she finishes school.

Chapter 12

Over the years, Mr. Howlands has grown to enjoy crushing the resistance. As they often have, he and Jacobo discuss how to deal with Ngotho and Boro, although Mr. Howlands remains reluctant to directly attack Ngotho. To counter this reluctance, Jacobo shows him one of several threatening, anonymous notes he has lately received; he believes they have been sent by Ngotho.

Meanwhile, Isaka brings Njoroge and several other youths to a church retreat nearby. On the way there, the police detain the group and ask to see their papers. The girls are allowed to go free, and Njoroge is released because he has his papers. Isaka does not have papers, but is unfazed by the officers. He insists that he would never join the Mau Mau because he has devoted his life to Jesus. Nevertheless, the officers bring him into the forest and shoot him. Njoroge feels sick

As it turns out, the officers were actually looking for Boro and his guerillas, who are staked out in the forest. The narrator focuses on them. Boro constantly broods about his brother Mwangi, who died in World War II. In fact, his entire life is devoted to avenging Mwangi's death. He believes that killing Jacobo will serve this goal, though he has yet to develop a plan for the assassination. He discusses the issue with his lieutenant, who is eager to help. However, Boro insists that he must perform this task alone.


By the time she returns to the village, Mwihaki has clearly become the novel’s symbol of innocent victimhood. The fact that her first ‘date’ with Njoroge is a church service emphasizes the purity of their relationship. Further, Njoroge has continued to think of her not only as a person, but as a reflection of the carefree days of his youth. Although some readers may be tempted to romantically link Njoroge and Mwihaki, both youths characterize their bond as similar to the one between siblings. Their long history of uncomplicated friendship is more affecting for remaining chaste; it becomes an example of the kind of love and fellowship that help people survive the darkest experiences.

These chapters function primarily to build suspense for the novel’s climax, when Njoroge will be interrogated about Jacobo’s murder. All of the major characters are depicted in stasis here, waiting and watching, all to foreshadow the catastrophic events to come. In keeping with his philosophy of empathy and fraternity, Ngugi includes the perspectives of Mr. Howlands, Jacobo, and Ngotho here. Although they all are on different sides of the conflict, they are all preoccupied with the same sense of apprehension. War, Ngugi suggests, harms the human spirit in the same ways regardless of which side a person is on.

At this point in the novel, Mr. Howlands is transitioning from a sympathetic character to a villainous one. The shift will culminate when he wreaks his gruesome vengeance upon Ngotho in Chapter 15, but for now, occurs more gradually. Earlier in the novel, Ngugi established that Mr. Howlands was primarily concerned with keeping his land, an almost transcendent concern that parallels him to the Gikuyu. However, his ignorance about their humanity is now manifesting into a fierce hatred that will cause great tragedy.

The implicit suggestion is that hatreds are exacerbated by war. Certainly, Mr. Howlands has always had a repressed hatred for the blacks of Kenya, though he had little cause to exercise it. Now, as Ngugi writes, “Mr. Howlands felt a certain gratifying pleasure [in crushing them.] The machine he had set in motion was working. The blacks were destroying the blacks. They would destroy themselves to the end. What did it matter with him if the blacks in the forest destroyed a whole village? What indeed did it matter except for the fact that labour would diminish? Let them destroy themselves. Let them fight against each other” (106). Here, Ngugi not only establishes the shift in Mr. Howlands, but uses it as a microcosm for the novel's theme of intra-ethnic conflict.

Mr. Howlands is not the only character who is changed by the realities of war, however. In addition to Jacobo (whose evolution will be discussed in the analysis of Chapters 13-15), Isaka undergoes a major shift as a result of the suffering he has seen in his country. Early in the book, Isaka is characterized as a carousing womanizer, but in this section, he returns to the village as a Christian revivalist. When he is murdered in Chapter 12, he becomes a kind of Christian martyr, refusing to abandon his faith even in dire circumstances. His relationship with religion contrasts with those of the other characters. Conflict and hardship seem to only strengthen Isaka’s faith in Christianity, whereas these same forces cause Mwihaki to doubt God. At this point, the reader to left to wonder in what way our protagonist will change in the face of these forces. Will he abandon his faith in God and education, or will he remain committed to the same beliefs that defined his childhood?