“Mr. Howlands felt a certain gratifying pleasure,” Ngũgĩ writes. “The machine he had set in motion was working. The blacks were destroying the blacks. They would destroy themselves to the end.” Thinking this way, Howlands considers the fact that the few Kenyans who don’t kill one another will eventually “be satisfied with the reservation the white man ha[s] set aside for them.” This satisfies him immensely—so much, in fact, that he no longer dreams about returning to the life of a farmer. Indeed, after several years of working as a District Officer, he has come to relish “reduc[ing] the blacks to obedience.”
As Mr. Howlands thinks about how much he likes forcing Kenyans to “destroy” one another, he confirms that the white settlers actively want to keep the people they’re oppressing divided. And because Mr. Howlands has always been someone who thoroughly enjoys “conquest”—as previously made clear by how he approaches farming—it’s no surprise that he has come to like his position as a District Officer in an oppressive government body.
For quite some time now, Mr. Howlands has fantasized about killing Ngotho, whom he sees as his “foe.” However, he has decided to wait, since he wants it to be the “crowning glory of his career before his triumphal return to farming life.” As such, he waylays all of Jacobo’s attempts to arrest Ngotho. When Jacobo arrives in his office one day, then, he assumes he simply wants to try once more to convince him to capture Ngotho. However, he’s surprised to hear that someone has delivered a threatening note to his (Jacobo’s) home. “STOP YOUR MURDEROUS ACTIVITES. OR ELSE WE SHALL COME FOR YOUR HEAD. THIS IS OUR LAST WARNING,” it reads.
Once again, Ngũgĩ demonstrates the seemingly endless cycle of violence and retribution that circles between the white settlers, the Mau Mau, and the people torn between both groups. In this moment, even Jacobo feels the divisive effects of colonialization, as he’s forced to contend with threats from fellow Kenyans because he has sided with people like Howlands.
Angry that Jacobo didn’t bring this to his attention earlier (there have been two more notes since this one), Howlands asks who he thinks sent this message. Jacobo tells him he thinks Ngotho is behind it, since Njoroge recently came into his house. Taking in this information, Howlands tells Jacobo that he can have more guards and that he should move when the new homeguard post is finished.
The fact that Jacobo blames Ngotho for the note shows yet again how badly he wants to take revenge upon his former neighbor. Unfortunately, he uses Njoroge’s friendship with Mwihaki against the family, thereby demonstrating how difficult—and dangerous, even—it is to maintain relationships under divided cultural conditions.
Walking to a “Christian gathering” one morning, Njoroge carries a Bible and strides alongside a group singing religious songs. As he walks, he thinks about how he misses Mwihaki, whom he saw quite frequently during the most recent holiday break. Just before they last parted, she told him she knew he’d do well on his exams—exams that will determine whether or not he can continue his education. “Stop!” a voice calls out, ripping Njoroge from his thoughts. Looking up, he sees a white officer holding a gun. Suddenly, he realizes the woods are full of these officers, who force Njoroge and his fellow Christians to squat and hand over their documents. Unfortunately, Isaka—who is also in the group of Christians—has forgotten his papers at home, and though the officers let everyone else go, they keep him. Moments later, Njoroge hears a gunshot and knows Isaka has died.
Isaka’s death symbolizes the gradual deterioration of Njoroge’s sense of hope. After all, religion—like education—is something Njoroge clings to in order to maintain his optimism in the possibility of a better future. Since Isaka is a figure who has factored heavily into both Njoroge’s educational and religious experiences, his sudden and unjust death hints at the fact that schoolwork and Christian worship are perhaps incapable of sustaining Njoroge in the face of cultural division and senseless violence.
Meanwhile, Boro has a conversation with a Mau Mau lieutenant while sitting in a new hideout in the forest. When the lieutenant asks if he believes in anything, he says, “No. Nothing. Except revenge.” When the lieutenant asks if he cares about recapturing the land, Boro replies, “The lost land will come back to us maybe. But I’ve lost too many of those whom I loved for land to mean much to me. It would be a cheap victory.” Boro is now a “leader of the other freedom fighters” because of his “daredevil” spirit. “The ripe hour of his youth had been spent in bloodshed in the big war,” Ngũgĩ notes. “This was the only thing he could do efficiently.” Although he used to tell himself that he was fighting for freedom, he now understands that his mission is one of “revenge.”
At this point in the novel, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that violence has become for Boro an end in and of itself. Rather than killing people as a way of achieving something (like recapturing “lost land”), he now cares only about “revenge.” This, Ngũgĩ suggests, is because the violence he experienced in World War II has rendered him unable to do anything but kill. In this way, Ngũgĩ intimates that violence is self-perpetuating and all-consuming.
Pressing on, the Mau Mau lieutenant asks Boro if he believes in freedom. “An illusion,” Boro replies. “What freedom is there for you and me?” At a loss, the lieutenant asks why Boro fights, if not for the land or for freedom. “To kill,” Boro states. “Unless you kill, you’ll be killed. So you go on killing and destroying. It’s a law of nature. The white man too fights and kills with gas, bombs, and everything.” He then states that Jacobo “must die,” along with Mr. Howlands.
The end of Boro’s conversation with the Mau Mau lieutenant solidifies the idea that violence has become—for him, at least—an end in and of itself. The only thing he cares about, he admits, is killing, especially when this helps him take revenge on people like Jacobo and Mr. Howlands.