Weep Not, Child

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Weep Not, Child: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mwihaki accepts Njoroge’s invitation to meet—delivered through a note—and feels guilty about the fact that she has agreed to see him. He is, after all, part of the family that killed her father. Nonetheless, she wants to see him because “at the very height of the crisis in her family the words that had most comforted were those that Njoroge had spoken to her.” In fact, she even repeated his phrase to her mother, saying, “The sun will rise tomorrow.”
Although Mwihaki used to be the one who questioned Njoroge’s optimism, she now clearly wants to embody the kind of hope he used to set forth about the future. What she doesn’t know, though, is that he no longer holds tight to the idea of improving himself through education or religion. As such, it seems likely that they will find themselves—or their worldviews—at odds with one another.
Themes
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When Njoroge finally sees Mwihaki, he notices she seems to have “hardened” and “grown into a woman.” As for Mwihaki, when she looks at Njoroge, she sees “frustration and despair and bewilderment in his eyes,” but she resolves not to pity him. “Mwihaki,” he begins, “it is strange that you and I should meet under these circumstances. I have known you for all those years when I was young and foolish and thought of what I could do for my family, my village, and the country. I have now lost all—my education, my faith, and my family. It’s only now that I do realise how much you had meant to me and how you took an interest in my progress. Because of this it makes it all the more painful what my people have done to you.” Saying this, he apologizes for what has happened.
Njoroge is in a difficult position, since he wants to invest himself in his relationship with a person whom his family has wronged. As such, he tries to make an appeal to her kindness while simultaneously apologizing for the fact that Boro killed her father. This, of course, is a rather impossible relational dynamic to navigate. That Njoroge even tries to reconnect with Mwihaki under these circumstances is an indication of how badly he feels he needs her. After all, he says that he has lost his “education,” “faith,” and “family.” The only thing left that might give him hope, then, is his relationship with Mwihaki.
Themes
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After listening to Njoroge, Mwihaki expresses her doubt that he knew nothing about Boro’s plans to kill Jacobo. “Mwihaki, I don’t want to pretend that I would have warned you if I had known about it,” he admits. “But I assure you that I am deeply sorry. Please accept what I am telling you, for I love you.” This thoroughly rattles her, and Njoroge sees her begin to “soften.” “I have no hope left but for you, for now I know that my tomorrow was an illusion,” he says. “I am sorry for having thought ill of you,” she says after a moment, but he insists that he is the one who should “take on the guilt.” Reaching out, he holds her hand, and she begins to cry. And though she doesn’t want to “lose control,” she also doesn’t want him to stop holding her hand.
When Njoroge says, “I have no hope left but for you, for now I know that my tomorrow was an illusion,” he suggests that his optimism about the future was never anything more than a naïve, idealistic worldview. This is bleak, considering how invested he used to be in his education. The fact that he believes that success and upward mobility are mere “illusion[s]” emphasizes the extent to which division and violence can lead to complete and utter disillusionment, even for people who are highly motivated and optimistic.
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“Don’t! Don’t!” Mwihaki says, thinking she must “stop him before he [goes] very far.” “Mwihaki, dear, I love you. Save me if you want. Without you I am lost,” Njoroge says. He then tells her that they can elope, like she once suggested. “No!” she says. “You must save me, please Njoroge. I love you.” She then covers her face and weeps, and Njoroge begins talking about running away together to Uganda, but she cuts him off, saying that running away is “too easy.” “We are no longer children,” she says. “We better wait. You told me that the sun will rise tomorrow. I think you were right.” Taken aback, he tells her, “All that was a dream. We can only live today,” to which she responds, “Yes. But we have a duty.” Falling to the ground, Njoroge suddenly feels as if he is “all alone” in the world.
Whereas Njoroge once refused to run away with Mwihaki because he couldn’t bear the idea of giving up on his desire to educate himself and—in doing so—uplift his community, now Mwihaki is the one who believes she has a “duty” to her country. Njoroge, on the other hand, has become so disillusioned about the future that he believes he can only invest himself in “today.” In turn, Ngũgĩ underlines the fact that these lovers have dealt with hardship differently, each one coping in his or her own way with the calamities ravaging Kenya.
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The next day, Njoroge leaves his mothers in the hut and walks along the road, eventually coming to the place in the woods where he declared his love to Mwihaki. Sitting on a rock, he takes a cord out of his pocket and waits for darkness. When the sun finally goes down, he walks to a tree he’s been eyeing since Ngotho died, and prepares a noose. Then, suddenly, he hears Nyokabi’s voice on the road. “Njoroge!” she calls, her voice “full of anxiety.” Pausing, he listens for some time before giving up and walking out to the road. “Mother,” he says, feeling a “strange relief.” Nyokabi, for her part, does not ask him what he was doing, but instead says, “I am here.”
The fact that Njoroge is considering suicide—even if he decides in this scene not to go through with it—emphasizes just how disillusioned he has become in the aftermath of what happened between his and Mwihaki’s families. Without his father, academic career, religious devotion, and relationship with Mwihaki, he fails to find any reason to stay alive—that is, until Nyokabi calls him back to the road, forcing him to focus on the people who are still in his life who care about him.
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“Let’s go home,” Nyokabi says. As Njoroge walks, he thinks about how he has “failed her” and about Ngotho’s last words, which instructed him to “look after the women.” What’s more, he feels as if he has failed Mwihaki, who asked him “to wait for a new day.” On the way home, Njoroge comes upon Njeri, who was also looking for him, and he feels “the guilt of a man who ha[s] avoided his responsibility for which he ha[s] prepared himself since childhood.” As he approaches home, a voice in his head says, “You are a coward. You have always been a coward. Why didn’t you do it?” In response, he says aloud, “Why didn’t I do it?” “Because you are a coward,” the voice replies. “Yes,” he whispers. “I am a coward.” With this, he runs home and “open[s] the door for his two mothers.”
After Njoroge decides not to kill himself, he feels ashamed about the fact that he has failed to accomplish what he always imagined he would accomplish in life: securing an education. Indeed, this is the “responsibility” he has been “prepar[ing] himself” for “since childhood.” In fact, he is so ashamed about his inability to finish school that he thinks he’s a “coward” for not ending his life. However, he eventually decides to accept the notion that he’s a “coward.” Unlike his father, who was motivated to act by feelings of guilt and shame, Njoroge embraces the idea that he is a “coward,” and instead of dwelling on this notion, he focuses on what he still has in life: his two mothers. As such, he rushes ahead and “open[s] the door” for them, investing himself in “today” as best he can.
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