Weep Not, Child

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Weep Not, Child: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Njoroge continues to enjoy his time at school. In particular, he looks forward to taking English lessons from Isaka, a teacher with a mustache who is “jovial” and somewhat mischievous—a combination that causes the students to gossip about him and speculate about his romantic life. After one particularly fun and spirited reading lesson—in which Isaka teaches the children how to pronounce the letter “u”—Njoroge and his peers start calling him U-u. On that day, he goes home and tries to teach Kamau what he has learned, but Kamau “resent[s]” this, so Njoroge “give[s] up the idea.”
Kamau has already made it clear that he believes in the value of education and the value of learning a trade. In the very opening pages of the novel, he even tells Njoroge that together they will be able to combine their knowledge and skills to uplift their family. However, Njoroge sometimes fails to recognize the importance of what Kamau is doing by becoming a carpenter, underhandedly suggesting that getting an education is the only way to make progress in life. What he fails to see, though, is that the family needs someone to make money in order to support his own education.
Themes
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
One day, Mwihaki asks Njoroge why he’s avoiding her. “You always come out late,” he lies, trying to hide the fact that he intentionally leaves before her so he won’t annoy his mother like the last time she caught him spending time with Mwihaki. Nonetheless, this conversation reopens their friendship, and they begin to play on the way home. Passing Mr. Howlands’s house, Njoroge says, “My father works here.” He then explains to Mwihaki that he sometimes visits the farm to see his father. When he does, he often encounters Stephen, who stays close to his mother and stares at Njoroge. One time, though, Stephen saw Njoroge and started walking toward him. “I was frightened because I did not know what he wanted,” Njoroge says. “I ran.”
Njoroge’s story about being “frightened” of Stephen demonstrates the extent to which these two groups—Africans and white settlers—are divided. Because Njoroge doesn’t have any contact with people like Stephen (and because Stephen’s people have taken advantage of Kenyans in the past) Njoroge assumes that the boy wants to harm him. This kind of fear, Ngũgĩ intimates, is how two groups of people remain so thoroughly divided for such long periods of time.
Themes
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Mwihaki asks Njoroge if Stephen wanted to speak to him, but Njoroge says he doesn’t know. “He may have wanted to quarrel with me,” he guesses. “He is like his father. And you know—” Before finishing his sentence, Njoroge thinks about the story Ngotho told his family about how white people stole their land. Because Mwihaki is Jacobo’s daughter—and because Jacobo is close to the white settlers—he decides he shouldn’t say anything about this. Instead, he simply says, “All this land belongs to black people.” Mwihaki agrees, saying that she’s heard her father say the same thing. “He says that if people had had education, the white man would not have taken all the land,” she adds.
Once again, readers witness the underlying tension in Mwihaki and Njoroge’s relationship—a tension that has to do with the fact that Mwihaki’s family is associated with white settlers like Mr. Howlands. On another note, when Mwihaki says that Jacobo believes white settlers wouldn’t have been able to steal land from Kenyans if only Kenyans were educated, Ngũgĩ once again demonstrates how highly people like Jacobo value education.
Themes
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
The following year, Njoroge is bumped up to Mwihaki’s class. Before the first day of classes, he spends time with Kamau, once more encouraging his brother to pursue an education. However, Kamau explains again that he doesn’t want to go to school. “A man without land must learn to trade,” he says. “Father has nothing. So what I am doing is important.” If, he says, he becomes a skilled craftsman, he will be wealthy and will be able to support Njoroge’s academic life. “Your learning is for all of us,” he says. “Father says the same thing. He is anxious that you go on, so you might bring light to our home. Education is the light of Kenya. That’s what Jomo says.” Hearing this, Njoroge thinks about Jomo, a man he has heard about but about whom he knows very little, other than that he’s well educated.
When Njoroge tries once more to convince his brother to pursue an education, Kamau reiterates that someone needs to find a way to support Njoroge, who will in turn repay the family by becoming educated. “Your learning is for all of us,” Kamau says, ultimately suggesting that he and his family are investing themselves in Njoroge. Referencing Jomo Kenyatta (an anti-colonial activist), Kamau speaks hopefully about the future, and readers understand that Kenyans have found a de-facto leader (Jomo) who sets forth the positive idea that education is the path to a better future.
Themes
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
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Before Njoroge starts school again, Ngotho says, “You must learn to escape the conditions under which we live. It is a hard way. It is not much that a man can do without a piece of land.” He tells his son that “education is everything,” but what he truly believes is that “land is everything.” This is why he never wants to be far from “the land that belonged to his ancestors.” Because of this, he has “faithfully” worked for Mr. Howlands for years, hoping that the prophecy will someday come true and drive white settlers out of Kenya. Now, though, Boro has made him doubt that this will ever happen. Listening to his father talk about land and Mr. Howlands’s farm, Njoroge knows that “an indefinable demand [is] being made on him, even though he [is] so young,” and this responsibility makes his “heart glow.”
It is obvious that Njoroge finds motivation in the idea that his family is counting on him. Rather than shrinking under the “indefinable demand” that people like his father have placed on him, he takes pleasure in his responsibility. This is perhaps because he doesn’t want to end up like his father, who is ashamed for failing to do something about the family’s lost land. Indeed, if Njoroge can manage to work hard and succeed in school, he will never have to worry about feeling as if he hasn’t done anything to advocate for himself or his loved ones.
Themes
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
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