Njoroge is the only boy in the area to pass intermediate school and progress to high school. The villagers, proud of his accomplishments, chip in to pay his tuition. Mwihaki also passes her exit exams, but does not do well enough to continue to high school. Instead, she will attend a teacher’s training college.
The day before Njoroge leaves, he and Mwihaki meet one last time. Mwihaki warns him not to forget the people he knew at home, and not to put on airs. Njoroge suspects she is jealous, and chatters about his hopes to go abroad after high school but to eventually return, since he believes Kenya needs him. Mwihaki angrily replies that the country has grown so dark that no one can fix it. Njoroge argues that that things will get better. After they say goodbye, Mwihaki walks home alone, trying to cover her tears.
At first, Njoroge is puzzled by the diversity of his high school. For the first time, he interacts with white teachers who treat him with kindness and respect. He is also surprised to find that his classmates, who are from other tribes, are not so different from the boys he knows at home. One day, a school for European boys competes against Njoroge’s school in football. Njoroge sits out the match, chatting with a white student who turns out to be Stephen Howlands.
Stephen admits that he often wanted to introduce himself to the black boys in Kipanga, but was afraid they would not want to talk to him. Njoroge sometimes saw Stephen around, and felt the same way. The boys ponder the strangeness of this coincidence. They comment on the tension that prevents people of different races from interacting with each other, but Njoroge reassures Stephen that the tension will one day pass and Kenya will be peaceful again. Stephen fears he will not be around to see it – he is being sent to England for boarding school.
Meanwhile, Mwihaki writes Njoroge frequently. In her letters, she confesses that she misses him, and confides that life at home has changed – “fear,” she writes, “is in the air” (123). Jacobo has grown paranoid and unpleasant, and the villagers are terrified. Njoroge admits to himself that he is glad not to be at home.
The chapter begins during Njoroge’s third term at high school. Stephen and his sister have left for England. Njoroge remains very happy at the high school, which is an oasis of peace in a troubled country. The headmaster keeps order through both severity and a fervent belief in “the white man’s rule and civilising mission” (126). One day, the headmaster pulls Njoroge out of class to tell him that his family has been involved in a “sad business,” and that he must remain open to Christ. He then hands Njoroge over to the custody of two police officers (126).
The officers take Njoroge to a station known as the “House of Pain,” where he is surprised to find Mr. Howlands waiting. The policemen interrogate Njoroge about Boro’s whereabouts, and eventually reveal that Jacobo has been murdered. They beat Njoroge mercilessly when he cannot give them any information. Eventually, they inform him that his father Ngotho has admitted to the crime, and that they will castrate Njoroge if he does not confirm his father's guilt. Njoroge refuses to say anything, and passes out when they put the pincers to his penis. Mr. Howlands then leaves, without saying anything. A few days later, Njoroge and his mothers are released from confinement.
Meanwhile, Ngotho writhes in pain in his hut, remembering recent events. The narrator is ambiguous about who actually killed Jacobo, but implies that Ngotho was not guilty. Nevertheless, Ngotho was pleased when he learned of his rival’s death, and he walked tall for the first time in years. However, Kamau was soon arrested for the murder, and Ngotho confessed to save his son. Mr. Howlands, who had come to consider Ngotho as a nemesis, interrogated him with such violence that even the other police officers were frightened.
Njoroge’s latest experiences finally break his optimism. He is overcome by guilt because he believes he has brought this “ill luck” on his family by associating with Mwihaki (131).
One night, he runs away from home. As he passes Jacobo’s house, he realizes he wants nothing more than to hold Mwihaki and run away with her. He sadly returns home because he now knows he cannot leave either Mwihaki or his family. That night, he does not pray.
Boro and Ngotho – two of this novel’s secondary protagonists – have passionately wished for Jacobo’s death for some time. When it comes, however, Ngugi has complicated Jacobo enough that his murder does not seem like a triumph for the rebel cause, but just another meaningless act of violence.
The author encourages this reading by allowing us to first learn about the murder from Njoroge’s perspective, rather than from Ngotho’s. While Ngotho is happy about his old landlord’s demise, Njoroge can only think of Mwihaki’s safety. By giving us Njoroge’s perspective first, Ngugi reminds us of the dire consequences that the murder will have on innocent people, like Mwihaki and Jacobo’s other children. Had he dramatized the murder, Ngugi would have possibly created the sense that it was a dramatic moment in which a villain was bested. Instead, it is just an act of violence that will ripple through an unsteady world. All of this serves to complicate a character who is portrayed in Part I as a simple antagonist.
Indeed, when Njoroge visits Jacobo’s home in Chapter 11, Ngugi reveals a very different character from the vengeful chief who plots ways to arrest Ngotho’s family on false pretenses. This Jacobo has been worn thin by fear and toil, and he treats Njoroge with the same respect and kindness he would give to any of Mwihaki’s friends. Jacobo’s sympathetic side appears again when he briefly explains to Mr. Howlands the relationship between Njoroge and his daughter. As he has throughout the novel, Ngugi aims to relate the complexities of a society, rather than just the motivations or perspectives of a few biased characters. Therefore, our relationship with even this previously despicable man becomes ambiguous when we realize how fully a culture of hatred and fear affects everyone.
Ngugi enhances this atmosphere of moral ambiguity by deepening his already complex characterization of Mr. Howlands. When Howlands walks out of Njoroge’s interrogation, the narrator does not specify the exact reason. However, the fact that Njoroge’s torture stops suggests that Mr. Howland's vendetta against Ngotho is not intense enough for him to justify such cruelty upon an innocent.
Nevertheless, the sadistic side that Ngugi introduced in Chapter 12 comes to full fruition in the wake of Jacobo’s murder. “Mr Howlands,” Ngugi writes, “was determined to conquer and reduce Ngotho to submission” (130). Although he has clearly drawn out the complexities of Mr. Howlands’s unhappy past, Ngugi never absolves the character of responsibility for the atrocities he commits. This is important because Mr. Howlands is a symbol of the British officials who did commit many abuses like those depicted in the novel. This fact has been a point of contention until relatively recently, when the British government admitted that the colonial authorities in Kenya tortured detainees. Though Ngugi reveals through the novel a deep sense of empathy, there are limits, and Mr. Howlands has now passed one of them.