The River Between


Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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The River Between: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Waiyaki’s new school, Marioshoni, develops quickly and soon has a considerable reputation across the ridges. In the wake of Muthoni’s death, the split with Siriana, and Chege’s death, Waiyaki takes spreading education in the ridges as his personal “mission.” The people respond eagerly, and “the ridges [are] beginning to awake.” All across Gikuyu country, “schools [grow] up like mushrooms” as the people see the value of white people’s education, even if they do not want to become white people themselves. In the midst of this, circumcision becomes even more important, as it’s a way to bind the tribe together and maintain their purity and identity. Parents and children both enthusiastically embrace education for the sake of preserving their way of life.
Waiyaki’s spread of education, while still honoring the circumcision tradition, demonstrates how one may integrate two opposing ideologies. By taking only what is useful from the white people—their approach to education—Waiyaki helps to strengthen his people without destroying their long-held cultural identity. The parents and children’s mutual embrace of education suggests that the best way for them to preserve their lifestyle and cultural identity is to progress and adapt to their changing world.
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At the same time, deepening divisions between villages worry Waiyaki. Some people want to maintain the old ways, while Joshua and his followers become more firmly allied with the white people and hostile to the rest of the tribe. Makuyu becomes the Christians’ village, while Kameno becomes the tribespeople’s village. In the middle of it all, Waiyaki’s influence grows and the people look to him as a leader. He is both proud and afraid of his role, and he senses that someday he will need to heal his people’s divisions and reconcile them.
Makuyu and Kameno’s separation by the ridges and the river reflects their ideological separation as well. Kameno becomes a symbol for tribal purity and preserving tradition, while Makuyu becomes the symbol of Christianity and rejecting one’s cultural identity for a new, “modern” identity.
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