Sitting in his office in the newly built police quarters, Mr. Howlands looks out the window and thinks about his past, wondering if there is perhaps “no escape” now from the present. First and foremost, he is troubled by the fact that his position as District Officer resembles the military service he hated so much as a young man. Thinking this way, he considers how much he detests working for England, the very country that took his son from him by forcing him into the war. There is, however, nothing he can do. Indeed, he cannot turn to God, since he isn’t religious. “There was only one god for him,” Ngũgĩ writes, “and that was the farm he had created, the land he had tamed. And who were these Mau Mau who were now claiming that land, his god?” This is the reason he became district officer: to protect his farm.
Although Mr. Howlands’s devotion to his farm may at first seem admirable, it’s worth comparing his approach to the land with Ngotho’s. Indeed, both men seem to have a spiritual connection with the same plot of earth, but Ngotho’s bond has nothing to do with ownership or dominion. Rather, Ngotho simply wants to tend the land so that future generations can live off of its bounty. Howlands, on the other hand, believes that he has “created” the land and sees it as something over which he has total control, fashioning himself into a godlike figure. In turn, it’s easy to see that his connection with the farm isn’t actually spiritual, but egocentric and vain.
“Did they want to drive him back to England, the forgotten land?” Mr. Howlands wonders. “Who were black men and Mau Mau anyway, he asked for the thousandth time. Mere savages!” He didn’t used to think this way—hardly stopping to consider black Kenyans at all except as part of his farm itself—but now he bears a grudge against people like Ngotho. “Yes, he would wring from every single man the last drop till they had all be reduced to nothingness, till he had won a victory for his god,” Ngũgĩ writes. “The Mau Mau had come to symbolize all that which he had tried to put aside in life. To conquer it would give him a spiritual satisfaction, the same sort of satisfaction he had got from the conquest of his land.”
Mr. Howlands is obsessed with “conquest.” Not only does he want to assert total control over his land—which doesn’t even rightfully belong to him—he also wants to subjugate the very people he stole that land from in the first place. As such, readers see that, although he doesn’t identify with England, he perfectly embodies the colonial impulse toward conquest and dominion that England itself perpetuates throughout the world.
Jacobo knocks on Mr. Howlands’s door and tells him he needs to speak with him. Mr. Howlands, for his part, is brusque, since he hates Jacobo (because he thinks of him as a “savage”). Nonetheless, he allows the man into his office, and Jacobo tells him that Ngotho is a “very terrible man” who has taken “oaths.” “What has he done?” Howlands asks, and Jacobo says that he believes his sons—and particularly Boro—“are bringing trouble in the village.” As such, he suggests that they arrest Boro and Kori because this would make it easier to “keep an eye on” Ngotho, who Jacobo upholds “may be the real leader of Mau Mau.” “All right,” replies Howlands. “Just keep an eye on the sons. Arrest them for anything—curfew, tax, you know what.”
At this point in Weep Not, Child, the feud between Ngotho and Jacobo begins to intensify, as Jacobo actively seeks revenge against Ngotho’s family. Unfortunately, Mr. Howlands also has a fraught history with Ngotho, who encouraged his farmworkers to strike. As a result, the two men conspire to use their power to spite not only Ngotho, but his sons, too.
Late that night, Ngotho sits in Nyokabi’s hut. Eventually, Kori and Njeri retire to Njeri’s hut, and as they do so, police officers tell them to “halt.” Ngotho hears this happen but can’t bring himself to go to his son and wife’s aid. “They have taken them away,” Nyokabi sobs when it’s all over. “Yeees…” Ngotho replies, feeling humiliated for doing nothing. “Was he a man any longer, he who had watched his wife and son taken away because of breaking the curfew without a word of protest?” Ngũgĩ writes. “Was this cowardice? It was cowardice, cowardice of the worst sort.” “I know it is Jacobo,” he says, and when Boro comes home and hears the news, he yells, “And you again did nothing?” before rushing out of the hut.
Once again, Ngotho is ashamed by his inability to stand up for his family. It’s worth noting that he’s a rather complex character, considering that he fluctuates so severely between action and inaction. Indeed, he fails to do anything when the white settlers take away his ancestral land, but then he attacks Jacobo for siding with the colonialists. The next time he has a chance to prove himself, though, he again does nothing. As such, it seems that his courage comes from this cycle. In other words, each time he fails to prove himself, he feels so guilty that he does something drastic the next time he has an opportunity. In this way, readers intuit that he will most likely exhibit some grand display of courage in the near future, though it remains a mystery what this might look like.
Because breaking curfew isn’t a serious infraction, Njeri is released after her family pays a fine. Kori, however, is not. Instead, he’s sent to a detention camp “without trial.” Despite this outcome, Jacobo is disappointed, since the person he truly wants to capture is Boro. Nevertheless, he doesn’t “lose hope.” Meanwhile, Ngotho wallows in guilt, and Njoroge is sure that “if a child hit [him], he would probably submit.”
As Jacobo continues to scheme—hoping to take revenge on Ngotho’s family by capturing Boro, too—Ngotho wallows in guilt and shame. Indeed, he is so dispirited and embarrassed that even Njoroge, who is occupied with school, notices that his father has become submissive. In turn, readers understand that the next time Ngotho has the chance to defend his honor, he will most likely do so. After all, he is a man who is often driven to action by guilt.
When Njoroge goes to school one day, he and his classmates discover a note demanding that the headmaster close the institution. If he doesn’t, the note says, the Mau Mau will decapitate him along with forty students. When Njoroge brings news of this home to Nyokabi, she tells him not to attend school anymore. However, Kamau says otherwise later that night: “You’ll be foolish to leave school. The letter may not be genuine. Besides do you really think you’ll be safer at home? I tell you there’s no safety anywhere. There’s no hiding in this naked land.” Because of this, Njoroge remains in school.
Whether or not the letter to Njoroge’s school is really from the Mau Mau, it’s evident that the current political and cultural climate in Kenya has become so tense and divided that even schoolchildren are feeling the immediate effects. Nonetheless, Kamau once again demonstrates his unwavering belief in the value of education, ultimately encouraging his brother to stay in school despite the fact that this is a dangerous decision. In this way, he suggests that attaining an education is worth risking one’s life.