Five months after Ngotho’s death, Njoroge takes a job working for an Indian in the marketplace. As he tries to sell dresses, he is acutely aware of the fact that the customers all know his family’s tragic story. He’s also aware that they know Boro snuck into Mr. Howlands’s house and killed him. “Put up your hands,” Boro said to the surprised white man, who had been spending the evening getting drunk and considering the fact that when he tortured Njoroge he saw in the boy’s eyes a kind of hope for the future that reminded him of the zeal he himself had as a young man, before World War I ruined his life.
Readers can reasonably assume that Boro went to Mr. Howlands’s house directly after watching his father die. As such, Ngũgĩ once again demonstrates the fact that Boro cannot extricate himself from his violent life, ultimately murdering Mr. Howlands as a way of coping with Ngotho’s death. What’s more, it’s worth noting that Mr. Howlands recognized a sense of hope in Njoroge’s eyes when he tortured him. This is important to bear in mind as the novel works toward a conclusion, since the strength of Njoroge’s optimism is a subject of increasing concern.
“I killed Jacobo,” Boro told Mr. Howlands as he pointed the gun. “He betrayed black people. Together, you killed many sons of the land. You raped our women. And finally, you killed my father. Have you anything to say in your defence?” As he spoke, his voice was “flat,” absent any “colour of hatred, anger, or triumph.” When Mr. Howlands failed to provide an excuse for himself, Boro accused Mr. Howlands of stealing his family’s land. “This is my land,” replied Mr. Howlands, and Boro shoots him to death. “Boro rushed out,” Ngũgĩ writes. “He felt nothing—no triumph. He had done his duty. Outside, he fired desperately at the police homeguards who barred his way. But at last he gave up. Now for the first time he felt exultant.”
The fact that Boro doesn’t feel anything when he kills Mr. Howlands is yet another indication that violence and revenge have become almost reflexive for him. Indeed, it seems he has lost sight of why he’s even murdering Howlands and is simply going through the motions. When he’s captured, though, he feels a surge of happiness, ultimately suggesting that he’s relieved to have finally broken out of his life of destruction, despite the fact that this will no doubt come at the cost of his own life.
Barring certain specific details, everyone in town knows this story about how Boro killed Mr. Howlands. As such, Njoroge has trouble interacting with the customers in the market, whom all whisper about him and cast him pitying looks. Because of this, he fails to perform well as a salesman and is eventually fired. “All right,” he says, walking out of the shop when his boss lets him go. “And he all at once wished that he had been a child and Mwihaki was near him so he could pour out all his troubles to her,” Ngũgĩ writes. “And he knew that he had to see her.”
Unsurprisingly, Njoroge is embarrassed to be seen in the markets. After all, he has spent most of his life proudly dreaming about himself as a great intellectual leader who will one day uplift the community. Now that he no longer goes to school, though, he’s forced to confront his humiliation as fellow Kenyans gossip about his family members. Simply put, Njoroge no longer has anything to invest himself in, which is why he decides to see Mwihaki, clearly wanting to find comfort and hope in their relationship.