The River Between

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Reverend Livingstone Character Analysis

Livingstone is a white Christian missionary and the only named white character in the story. Livingstone believes he is “enlightened” compared to the earlier missionaries, because he does not try to force the Gikuyu people to abandon their tribal rituals—that is, other than female circumcision. Circumcision represents the core of Gikuyu identity, which Livingstone sees as opposed to Christian identity. Thus, Livingstone embodies the subtle methods of the colonialists throughout the story, as they quietly move in, steal land, and impose their own government on the Gikuyu tribespeople.

Reverend Livingstone Quotes in The River Between

The The River Between quotes below are all either spoken by Reverend Livingstone or refer to Reverend Livingstone. 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 11 Quotes

Circumcision had to be rooted out if there was to be any hope of salvation for these people.

Related Characters: Reverend Livingstone
Related Symbols: Circumcision
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

Circumcision was an important ritual to the tribe. It kept people together, bound the tribe. It was at the core of the social structure, and a something that gave meaning to a man’s life. End the custom and the spiritual basis of the tribe’s cohesion and integration would be no more.

Related Characters: Waiyaki, Reverend Livingstone
Related Symbols: Circumcision
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

No! It could never be a religion of love. Never, never. The religion of love was in the heart. The other was Joshua’s own religion, which ran counter to her spirit and violated love. If the faith of Joshua and Livingstone came to separate, why, it was not good. […] She wanted the other. The other that held together, the other that united.

Related Characters: Nyambura, Waiyaki, Joshua, Reverend Livingstone
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:
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Reverend Livingstone Character Timeline in The River Between

The timeline below shows where the character Reverend Livingstone appears in The River Between. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...Kinuthia join him, and together they study for several years under a missionary named Reverend Livingstone. Waiyaki’s influence grows among the missionaries as well, and they see him as a future... (full context)
Chapter 7
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...and rectangular, a symbol of the outside world’s encroachment into the ridges. Joshua carries on Livingstone’s work in the ridges, evangelizing to the Gikuyu people. When he first went to the... (full context)
Chapter 9
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...they are not allowed to act on their words. As he dances, Waiyaki wonders what Livingstone would say about such a scene. (full context)
Chapter 10
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...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 several days in... (full context)
Chapter 11
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
In Siriana, Livingstone sees Muthoni’s death as confirmation of “the barbarity of Gikuyu customs.” Though Livingstone had arrived... (full context)
Chapter 24
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...Waiyaki in the church and her heart longs for him. She decides that Joshua and Livingstone’s version of Christianity, which divides people and makes them enemies, is not the true Christianity... (full context)