The River Between

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Chege Character Analysis

Chege is Waiyaki’s father and an elder from Kameno. Chege is old and wise, a seer, and one of the few people who knows of the ancient prophecy that a savior will rise from the hills and save their people. Because their family is part of an ancient line and because of his son’s natural ability to lead, Chege believes that Waiyaki will be that savior. He sends his son to study with the missionaries in Siriana so that he may learn their secrets and use that knowledge to free the Gikuyu people from the colonists. Chege is dedicated to the tribe but recognizes that fighting in the old ways will no longer work—if the Gikuyu are to survive, they must learn the white people’s methods and tools, contrasting with Kabonyi’s belief that they must fight the white people with weapons and force their own people to follow only Gikuyu customs. Though he occasionally wonders if his son will fail, Chege dies of old age shortly after Waiyaki is circumcised, believing that now that his son is a man, he will be ready to step into his role as savior.

Chege Quotes in The River Between

The The River Between quotes below are all either spoken by Chege or refer to Chege. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Colonialism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The River Between published in 2015.
Chapter 4 Quotes

The ridges slept on. Kameno and Makuyu were no longer antagonistic They had merged into one area of beautiful land, which is what, perhaps, they were meant to be.

Related Characters: Waiyaki, Chege
Related Symbols: Makuyu, Kameno
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“Arise. Heed the prophecy. Go to the Mission place. Learn all the wisdom and the secrets of the white man. But do not follow his vices. Be true to your people and the ancient rites.”

Related Characters: Chege (speaker), Waiyaki, Kabonyi
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The River Between LitChart as a printable PDF.
The River Between PDF

Chege Character Timeline in The River Between

The timeline below shows where the character Chege appears in The River Between. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...face roughly into the ground as they exchange insults and threats. A younger boy, Waiyaki, Chege’s only son, runs up to them and tells them to stop fighting. Not long before,... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Waiyaki’s father, Chege, is a renowned elder from Kameno. He is a widower, after the latest famine killed... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...Kamau, Kinuthia, and Waiyaki gather their cattle and head for their homes. Waiyaki arrives at Chege’s hut as night falls. When Chege hears that Waiyaki took his cattle all the way... (full context)
Chapter 4
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
A few weeks after Waiyaki’s “second birth,” Chege tells him to leave the cattle with his mother; they are going into the hills... (full context)
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Waiyaki and Chege climb up to a sacred hilltop with an ancient tree, “the tree of Murungu.” Waiyaki... (full context)
Chapter 5
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
On the sacred hilltop, Chege tells Waiyaki of Murungu, who created Gikuyu and Mumbi as the “father and mother of... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Chege sees fear in Waiyaki’s eyes but he continues to explain that the people in the... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Waiyaki and Chege return to the village. Chege’s belief that Waiyaki will be their savior weighs heavily on... (full context)
Chapter 7
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...feared hell, now, because Christ made him a “new creature,” he does not fear hell,  Chege, or any of the vengeful tribesmen. When he returned to Makuyu to spread Christianity, many... (full context)
Chapter 9
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
The harvests are strong, and the villagers sacrifice to Murungu. The old men, such as Chege, remember that strong harvests often precede famines, like the one that left him a widower.... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Waiyaki will be circumcised in a few days and become a man. Chege knows that, when this happens, he will be able to trust that Waiyaki will do... (full context)
Chapter 10
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...as Waiyaki feels his own pain, he wonders what Muthoni feels. Images of childhood, of Chege, and of Livingstone pass through his mind in a discordant blur. He spends the next... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Chege speaks with another elder, proud of Waiyaki for enduring circumcision and proving that his time... (full context)
Chapter 11
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...shows no emotion and resolves to stay firm on his “journey to the new Jerusalem.” Chege sees Muthoni’s death as proof that the white religion causes division and death. He fears... (full context)
Chapter 12
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
The elders in Makuyu fear that Chege is dying. The white people are building an outpost next to Makuyu, from which they... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...home one day, Waiyaki finds his mother standing outside their hut weeping. He senses that Chege is dead. (full context)
Chapter 13
Colonialism Theme Icon
...“their new masters.” Kinuthia says they must act. Many people in the ridges feel that Chege was right—they “slept” for too long and did not fight when they had the chance.... (full context)
Chapter 14
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 16
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Standing outside his own hut, Waiyaki remembers Chege and reflects that he never truly understood his father. Did he honestly believe the prophecy... (full context)
Chapter 17
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...they imply that there is no middle ground between Makuyu and Kameno. He thinks of Chege’s commitment to the tribe and wonders if he is betraying his father simply by being... (full context)
Chapter 19
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
...unaware of him. The sight reminds him of the sacred hill he stood on with Chege. It seems as if “holy light” radiates outward from Nyambura. When she hears him watching... (full context)
Chapter 24
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...of taking her and fleeing to Nairobi but decides that he must stay and fulfill Chege’s prophecy of being a savior. Waiyaki and Nyambura go to the river and then return... (full context)