Weep Not, Child

Weep Not, Child Summary and Analysis of Chapters 8-10


Chapter 8

About two years have passed.

Njoroge hears many stories about events occurring in the far-away towns of Nyeri and Murang’a. Often, these stories have a mythic element to them. For example, a boy named Karanja tells him one about Dedan Kimathi, the leader of the African Freedom Army, who tricked the police into expecting him to arrive, at which point they would arrest him. However, the leader instead turned himself into a white man, and borrowed a motorcycle from the police. The next day, he turns into an airplane, and drops them a letter explaining how he fooled them.

Jacobo has meanwhile become a chief. He is surrounded by bodyguards at all times, to protect him from guerilla resistance fighters. Mr. Howlands has become the district officer, and he and Jacobo often patrol the huts for suspicious activity. Njoroge has continued in his new school despite his family’s precarious finances.

One day, Njoroge comes home to find Boro and Kori in the house, both dirty and tired. There has been a police crackdown because Jomo will soon go to trial. Kori had been arrested, but he leaped from the moving police truck when he realized he and his fellow revolutionaries would be killed. Though he was shot in the knee during his escape, he has made it home. Everyone listens to his story.

There is an unmistakable tension in the house, both from fear for the future and from the problems between Ngotho and Boro. Boro has not forgiven his father for inciting the riot two years before; Boro and Kiarie are strong believers in nonviolent resistance, and Boro believes his father undermined the movement by attacking Jacobo. Another point of contention is the fact that Ngotho will not join the Mau Mau. Though Ngotho believes in the cause, joining would entail taking an oath, and Ngotho believes it shameful to have an oath administered to him by his son.

Chapter 9

At school, Njoroge and his friends discuss Jomo’s trial and the various rebel splinter groups that have formed. Njoroge asks the difference between the KAU and the Mau Mau, two of the most powerful groups. Most of the other students explain that they “like KAU and fear Mau Mau” because the Mau Mau slit the throats of black people reputed to be traitors (79). The boys all daydream about fighting in the forest.

Everyone is disappointed and afraid when they learn that Jomo Kenyatta has been found guilty during his trial, and will hence not be released. Ngotho suffers a crisis of conscience – he worries that his actions at the rally will keep the prophecy (that the whites will leave Kenya) from being fulfilled. He also ponders his problematic relationship with Boro, and wonders whether he has made other mistakes as a father. Meanwhile, to her family, Njeri analyzes why Jomo lost his trial. She believes that it is impossible to win a trial when white men have made all the laws. Boro exclaims that black men must rise up and fight, and Njoroge is deeply moved by his brother's passion.

Chapter 10

In the district office, Mr. Howlands waits for Jacobo to arrive for a meeting. He reflects on his failure to live a simple life in Africa, realizing that he has become immersed in politics despite his intentions. He had reluctantly accepted the district officer post because he wants to defend his land, the only thing he truly believes in. He has never bothered to think about the Gikuyu perspective; to him, black people are like “donkeys or horses in his farm” (84). Like Ngotho, Mr. Howlands often feels that he does not understand his children – especially his missionary daughter.

Jacobo arrives. The rebellion has caused Mr. Howlands to hate Jacobo, whom he sees as a savage despite the black's man wealth and their long history of working together. Jacobo tells Mr. Howlands that he believes Ngotho and Boro are secretly participating in the rebellion; he even believes Ngotho might be the secret head of the Mau Mau. He asks permission to send them to a detention camp, and Mr. Howlands instructs him to arrest Ngotho and his sons for any minor infractions. As Jacobo leaves, Mr. Howlands reflects on how he has never forgotten Ngotho.

That night, most of the family is gathered in Nyokabi’s hut. When Njeri and Kori leave to sleep in Njeri’s hut – only a few yards away – they are arrested for breaking the 6 p.m. curfew. Ngotho pays the fine for the crime, but only Njeri is released. Kori is sent to a detention camp without trial. Meanwhile, Jacobo continues to plot ways to arrest Ngotho.

One day, Njoroge arrives at school to find the students huddled around a letter that has been posted on the wall. The letter threatens that the headmaster and forty children will be killed if the school does not close down; it is signed by the resistance leader Dedan Kimathi. Njoroge does not understand the threat, because he “thought Mau Mau was on the side of the black people” (91). Kamau urges his brother to keep going to school, since he is no safer at home anyway. Njoroge agrees, and continues to attend.


Ngugi makes an unusual choice in these chapters by returning to Mr. Howlands’s perspective. Although the novel emphasizes the suffering caused by British colonialism, Ngugi makes it clear that Mr. Howlands is not the omnipotent villain that some of the villagers believe him to be. Instead, he is a figure caught in the same forces of colonialism as the Kenyans are. He wants a simple life much as they do, and though he is clearly racist and lacks empathy, it is arguable that this is all an effect of the culture in which he was raised. This willingness to consider both sides of the issue may have been influenced by Ngugi’s years living in England; indeed, he wrote the novel not in Kenya but at Leeds University in Yorkshire.

The passages from Mr. Howlands’s point of view highlight the similarities between the British colonist and the people whose land he has taken. For example, Ngugi implicitly compares Mr. Howlands to Ngotho by paralleling their difficult relationships with their children. This is not Ngugi's first use of such parallelism; in Chapter 3, a similar parallel between Ngotho and Mr. Howlands was drawn to emphasize their passion for the land. Both characters are primarily motivated by the desire to defend what they believe is their land. The connection explains the interesting observation that Mr. Howlands "had never forgotten Ngotho" (87). The tragedy is that only one of them can own the land that both covet.

In these chapters, many characters exhibit significant changes. Some characters change simply because they are growing up; for example, Kamau becomes a pillar of financial and spiritual support for the family as Ngotho ages. His choice to pursue a career instead of attend school has forced him to mature more quickly than Njoroge has. His newfound authority becomes apparent when he suggests Njoroge stay in school despite the threat of violence, and Njoroge listens to him instead of to Nyokabi. However, the war has also wrought major changes among the adult characters. For example, Nganga shows an unprecedented generous streak when he allows Ngotho’s family to move onto his land, and Jacobo – who has never before been portrayed as explicitly malevolent – pursues Ngotho’s family in order to seek revenge on the patriarch and defend his own holdings from the threat of rebellion. What all of these changes have in common is that they reflect a more dangerous, less stable world. As Ngotho's family grows more separated, so too does the society become less organized under the threat of violence.

In fact, most of the new elements in Part II can be understood through its title: "Darkness Falls." Kenya’s political strife intensifies in Part II, and these chapters refer to several splinter groups that formed during the 1952-1960 Emergency. The two most important ones are the Kenya African Union (KAU) and the Mau Mau. The KAU was founded in 1944 as a study group, and was led by Njoroge’s hero, Jomo Kenyatta. For most of its early existence, it advocated moderate, pan-African political stances, and avoided involvement in tribal politics. (However, the organization was frequently accused of being dominated by the Gikuyu, Kenya’s largest and most educated tribe.)

Like the KAU, the Mau Mau had Gikuyu origins. It was a secret society, and members had to take an oath to join; the oath is what is problematic for Ngotho. As Eric W. Brown has noted, secret societies and oaths were an important part of Gikuyu culture, so the Mau Mau quickly became popular. Because of the organization’s secrecy, scholars still disagree about what the Mau Mau’s original goals were. However, it is generally agreed that they were more politically extreme than the KAU, and more willing to use violence to advance their goals. In 1951, the Mau Mau effectively took control of the KAU. As violence becomes commonplace and the characters live in a world of constant threat, the veil of innocence has clearly been lifted, and darkness has fallen.

For more on the political climate alluded to in Part II, please see the Additional Content section of this ClassicNote.