The River Between

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Kamau Character Analysis

Kamau is Kabonyi’s son as well as Waiyaki’s friend and eventual rival. Kamau studies under the white missionaries in Siriana with Waiyaki and Kinuthia for several years. After they are banned from the Siriana mission for having “pagan” parents, Kamau helps Waiyaki build and operate their new school for Gikuyu children in Kameno. However, Kamau grows jealous of Waiyaki’s growing influence amongst the villagers, and he’s even more jealous that Nyambura loves Waiyaki, since Kamau wants to marry Nyambura himself. When Kabonyi begins to hate Waiyaki because Waiyaki is more popular and influential than himself, Kamau follows suit and helps his father conspire against him. When Kabonyi tries to undermine Waiyaki in front of the tribe by claiming that his education corrupts the Gikuyu children with white culture, the people reject Kabonyi, and he is humiliated. Seeing his father’s shame, Kamau blames Waiyaki for his father’s suffering, even though Waiyaki never has any ill will toward Kabonyi. Kamau spies Waiyaki with Nyambura and leaving Joshua’s church, and he gives this information to Kabonyi, who ultimately uses it to accuse Waiyaki of being a traitor and destroy his reputation, thus defeating him.

Kamau Quotes in The River Between

The The River Between quotes below are all either spoken by Kamau or refer to Kamau. 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 13 Quotes

“Take Siriana Mission for example, the men of God came peacefully. They were given a place. No see what has happened. They have invited their brothers to come and take all the land. Our country is invaded. This Government Post behind Makuyu is a plague in our midst.”

Related Characters: Kinuthia (speaker), Waiyaki, Kamau
Related Symbols: Makuyu
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The River Between LitChart as a printable PDF.
The River Between PDF

Kamau Character Timeline in The River Between

The timeline below shows where the character Kamau 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
On a small plain, two boys fight each other. Kamau, Kabonyi’s son from Makuyu, wrestles with Kinuthia, an orphan who lives with his uncle. They... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Fearing that they will be lost in the forest once darkness falls, Kamau, Kinuthia, and Waiyaki gather their cattle and head for their homes. Waiyaki arrives at Chege’s... (full context)
Chapter 5
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...quietly sends Waiyaki away to study with the missionaries in Siriana and learn their ways. Kamau and Kinuthia join him, and together they study for several years under a missionary named... (full context)
Chapter 13
Colonialism Theme Icon
...Waiyaki stands in the doorway of his office in the school that he, Kinuthia, and Kamau run for the children in the ridges. The thatched building leaks, the walls rot, and... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...thinks to himself that education will provide the Gikuyu with the means to fight back. Kamau raises the possibility of forming a Kiama to “preserve the purity” of the tribe—Kabonyi developed... (full context)
Chapter 15
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...he could be free of it. He thinks he will go to Makuyu to see Kamau, but when he makes his way down to the Honia river he finds Nyambura instead.... (full context)
Chapter 16
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...warns Waiyaki that Kabonyi is jealous of him and will make a dangerous rival. Also, Kamau claims to have seen Waiyaki and Nyambura walking together. (full context)
Chapter 17
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
...he knows that he would never truly betray his tribe. As he is walking away, Kamau meets him. Waiyaki admits that he stopped to listen to Joshua preach. Nyambura passes by... (full context)
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
After Waiyaki leaves Kamau, he and Nyambura meet in the forest. She apologizes for not coming to the school,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...their devotion, since he is older and more experienced. He would even be happier if Kamau led rather than Waiyaki. Kabonyi knows Mugo’s prophecy and fears that Waiyaki may actually be... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Kabonyi tells Kamau to take him home. He has suffered a humiliating public defeat. As they walk, Kabonyi... (full context)
Chapter 19
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...education, and as such, he has already resigned from the Kiama and been replaced by Kamau. (full context)
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
After Nyambura leaves, Kamau emerges from where he has been watching in the brush. He burns with hatred and... (full context)
Chapter 23
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
In the middle of the night, Kamau summons Waiyaki for a mysterious meeting with the Kiama. At the meeting, Kabonyi accuses Waiyaki... (full context)
Chapter 24
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...when he tries to do so, Joshua rejects him and blames him for Muthoni’s death. Kamau and his followers see Waiyaki in Joshua’s church and decide that he is the tribe’s... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...Nyambura as his daughter. Nyambura leaves with Waiyaki, and from the darkness they can hear Kamau and his followers calling Waiyaki a traitor. (full context)