The River Between

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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The River Between: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A few weeks after Waiyaki’s “second birth,” Chege tells him to leave the cattle with his mother; they are going into the hills together. Waiyaki does not know what it means but knows that something significant will happen. Chege takes Waiyaki across several hills and tells him about how the women used to rule the Gikuyu people until the men overthrew them for their harsh treatment.
Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o often features women as the strongest characters in his stories, including in The River Between, seemingly as a nod to the Gikuyu belief in their matriarchal origins. This journey takes place right after Waiyaki’s “second birth,” indicating that he will learn something new about himself.
Themes
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Waiyaki and Chege climb up to a sacred hilltop with an ancient tree, “the tree of Murungu.” Waiyaki feels small in its presence. He turns toward Makuyu and Kameno and sees that, from this vantage, the ridges no longer look separate and “antagonistic.” Rather, they appear as one unified piece of land, at peace “as they were meant to be.”
Murungu is the creator and God figure in Gikuyu cosmology. Waiyaki’s vision of the ridges as one piece of land foreshadows his desire to unify Makuyu and Kameno and reconcile their differences.
Themes
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
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