Weep Not, Child

Weep Not, Child Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-18


Chapter 16

Ngotho becomes desperately ill as he tries to recover from the wounds he sustained in torture. When Njoroge visits him, Ngotho rambles incoherently that the British have detained Kamau because they want "young blood" (134) When Ngotho hears a knock at the door, he fears it is Mr. Howlands, but it turns out to be Boro, who is thin and unkempt after months of fighting and hiding in the woods.

Boro apologizes for not coming sooner, and Ngotho begs him not leave the family again. However, Boro explains that he must continue to fight. He leaves not long afterwards, and Ngotho wishes him well, and then urges Njoroge to look after his mothers. As Boro walks out the door, Ngotho dies.

Chapter 17

Five months later, Njoroge works as a sales assistant in an Indian dress shop. He hates his job, and is ashamed that his big dreams have amounted to nothing. Mr. Howlands died on the same day as Ngotho did, and Boro and Kamau have been charged with his murder.

The narrator recounts how Mr. Howlands died. After letting Ngotho go, he returned home to brood. Although he gave Ngotho wounds that would ultimately kill him, Mr. Howlands felt he had not yet received ultimate restitution. He was forced to let Ngotho go free because he found a notebook with Boro’s name on it at the crime scene.

Over time, Mr. Howlands gradually realized that Ngotho truly had nothing to do with the murders. In fact, he even thought Boro was merely covering for Kamau. Seeing Njoroge tortured shamed him, and he grew guilty with the remembrance of how he had once been an idealistic youth who was subsequently disillusioned by violence.

Boro entered Mr. Howlands’s house on the day Ngotho died, and admitted that it was he who killed Jacobo. Boro then accused Mr. Howlands of stealing the Gikuyu land and raping their women. Mr. Howlands responded that it was his land. Boro laughed at this claim and then shot Mr. Howlands, after which he surrendered himself to the homeguards gathered outside.

In the present day, Njoroge sulks at his job, and his miserable mood frightens the children who come into the shop. His boss fires him, and he leaves to seek comfort from Mwihaki.

Chapter 18

Mwihaki receives a note from Njoroge asking to see her, but she is reluctant because of Njoroge’s association with her father’s murder. She was devastated when she learned that Jacobo was dead. Eventually, she agrees to meet Njoroge.

When he arrives, Njoroge apologizes for what happened to her father. Mwihaki believes that he could have warned her before the murder if he chose, but Njoroge insists that he knew nothing about it. Finally, he tells her that he loves her. Mwihaki confesses that she loves him too, and Njoroge proposes they run away to Uganda together, as she once proposed. However, Mwihaki insists they must stay because they have a duty to help make a brighter future for their people. She adds that she cannot leave her mother to be with him.

Njoroge feels forsaken by everything he once cared for – education, God, country, Mwihaki. He walks to the outside of the village, prepared to hang himself. At the last moment, Nyokabi appears, and urges him to come home. He feels guilty for shirking his father’s last command, which was to take care of his mothers. As he walks home, a voice in his head calls him a coward for attempting suicide.


At the end of Weep Not, Child, many important characters die. Many of these deaths serve as vehicles for the novel’s themes. Ngotho’s death is perhaps the most dramatic; that it occurs exactly when Boro walks out the door suggests that his life is tied to the continued resistance. Right or wrong, the determination of men like Boro to continue fighting against all odds led to many deaths on both sides of the conflict. By choosing the cause over his family, Boro effectively dooms his father.

Likewise, Mr. Howlands and Ngotho remain foils to one another even in their paralleled death scenes. They die on the same day, each one wracked by guilt and uncertainty in the moments before his death. Both scenes also feature an image of Boro walking through a door. Earlier in this section, both men exhibited a vicious appetite for revenge, each believing that his suffering can only be righted by the death of an adversary. Arguably, this belief in ‘eye-for-an-eye’ justice is what leads to their deaths, which again makes the implicit argument that violence breeds violence.

The final chapter of Weep Not, Child employs a significant tonal departure from the rest of the novel. Throughout the book, Njoroge is portrayed positively because of his ambition and relentless optimism. However, his hopes for himself and his country prove futile. Despite his attempts to succeed and change his country through education, he drops out of high school and becomes an attendant in a dress shop – that is, until he proves ill-equipped for even that. In the novel’s final pages, it seems that Njoroge is destined not for outward greatness, but for an insular life of providing for his widowed mothers. The title of Part II - "Darkness Falls" - has clearly become the case. The protagonist has lost both hope and will to live.

Of course, Njoroge's fate should not be read as a comment on his earlier hopes for education. Ngugi seems too taken with the power of learning to doom it in such a way. Instead, Ngugi seems to blame the broader political circumstances for interfering with Njoroge’s pursuit of success. So grievous are the circumstances in Kenya that even education loses the power to change people.

Perhaps more poignant is Njoroge’s loss of faith in God. For most of his youth, he reads the Bible and cannot ignore the parallels between the Gikuyu and the Israelites. He maintains this belief even when Mwihaki and other people around him begin to doubt God, and even when he sees Isaka martyred by the police. However, his brutal interrogation, and his father’s subsequent death, prove to be the last straw. Njoroge finally gives up on the idea that the Emergency and the violent uprising are all part of God’s plan. Unfortunately, because he has based his life on these broad hopes, he has nothing left when they are taken away.

What then, can readers take away from this novel, which in its final pages seems to spurn the values it portrayed positively for the previous seventeen chapters? Ngugi still seems to suggest that religion, love, and family are powerful forces that can help people survive terrible conditions. The relationships he crafts in most of the book remain true and profound. However, he ultimately shows that some events are too atrocious for even love to overcome. Humans – white and black alike – are all helpless pawns in broad political struggles. The hatred of colonialism and blindness of revolution both are forces that swallow individuals, and hence cannot be controlled be them. As Njoroge thinks to himself at the end of the book, “life too seemed like a big lie where people bargained with forces that one could not see” (138).