The River Between


Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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The River Between: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

On Sundays, Joshua preaches at his church in Makuyu, aided by Kabonyi. One Sunday, after a particularly long service, Nyambura returns home and realizes that Muthoni is absent. By evening she still has not returned, and Nyambura fears that Muthoni is carrying out her plan. Joshua goes to bed early, but Miriamu, still awake, wonders where Muthoni is. Miriamu obeys Christianity’s tenets out of her fear of Joshua, though she loves him in her own way. Nevertheless, “the true Gikuyu woman” lays dormant inside her. Joshua suddenly rises and realizes that Muthoni is missing so late at night. He becomes furious at Miriamu and demands that she find her daughter.
“The true Gikuyu woman” that sits dormant inside Miriamu suggests that the strict Christianity that Joshua imposes on his family represses Miriamu’s true cultural identity. This not only demonstrates that Christianity can act as a destructive force, it also gives the reader some insight as to why Muthoni chooses to leave their family. Rather than have her Gikuyu identity repressed and stolen from her like Miriamu, Muthoni wants to embrace both her tribal identity and her Christian faith.
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As Joshua rages at Miriamu, who cannot find Muthoni, Nyambura finally admits that Muthoni has gone to their aunt in Kameno to be circumcised. Joshua seizes Nyambura, enraged, and she is terrified of her father. Eventually he lets her go, looking like a defeated predator. He tells Nyambura to go to Kameno, find Muthoni, and tell her that she must return at once or else Joshua will disown her. Nyambura leaves and returns the following day to tell Joshua that Muthoni refuses to come back. Joshua promptly disowns Muthoni and considers her a disgrace to their Christian family. He decides that even if his daughter should “go back to Egypt,” he will press on to “the new Jerusalem.”
The chilling image of Joshua as a defeated predator again suggests that he is obsessed with his own power. By defying Joshua’s orders, Muthoni challenges the power he holds over the whole family and shows that it is merely a façade. Joshua’s reflection on Egypt and Jerusalem refer to the Exodus in the Bible, when Hebrew slaves left Egypt behind in order to find their promised holy land. This suggests that Joshua believes he is making his way toward an enlightened spiritual state.
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