The River Between

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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The River Between: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The elders in Makuyu fear that Chege is dying. The white people are building an outpost next to Makuyu, from which they will levy taxes. The elders distrust Waiyaki and wonder if his time in Siriana corrupted him. Joshua now explicitly bans any Christians from having any connection to circumcision, and his new ferocity emboldens his followers and grows their influence.
Muthoni’s death marks a turning point in the story where divisions between groups—Makuyu and Kameno, Christians and non-Christians—deepen, and the need for reconciliation becomes much clearer.
Themes
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Rather than return to the mission school in Siriana, Waiyaki remains in Kameno to look after Chege. He recalls the day they stood together on the sacred hill, and Waiyaki is struck by the newfound clarity of that memory. He feels that he understood his father more that day than ever before or ever since, and he shares Chege’s desire for the ridges to reconcile. However, he wonders if the missionaries only came to divide Kameno and Makuyu against each other.
Although Waiyaki embraces some aspects of Christianity, his sense that the missionaries only came to divide the people suggests that the colonialists use Christianity as a weapon—an insidious tool that weakens the native people by creating division and setting them against each other.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Waiyaki fears that the hatred Muthoni’s death aroused will break the villages apart. Within days, Waiyaki hears that Kabonyi has defected from Joshua and taken many followers with him. In response, the mission in Siriana bans any children of “pagan” parents from attending the school, and Waiyaki sadly realizes that his time at the mission is over. Returning home one day, Waiyaki finds his mother standing outside their hut weeping. He senses that Chege is dead.
Waiyaki’s fear once again demonstrates the need for reconciliation between Makuyu and Kameno, and between the Christians and non-Christians. Because the colonialists represent an existential threat to the tribe’s way of life, the possibility of worsened divisions between the villages becomes more dire, since they will be easier to conquer if the tribespeople are turned against each other.
Themes
Colonialism Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon