Weep Not, Child

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Weep Not, Child can help.

Weep Not, Child: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ngũgĩ explains that Jacobo is one of the only Africans allowed by white settlers to grow pyrethrum. “It was said that he had stood in the way of similar permits being given to other people,” Ngũgĩ writes. “White farmers who planted it also did not want many Africans to be allowed to grow any cash crop like pyrethrum […].” Often, Njoroge stands on a small hill overlooking Jacobo’s crops and watches for his mother and brothers. If sees one of them, he rushes out to help them carry whatever they might have—even if it is Njeri or one of his half-brothers. “The feeling of oneness was a thing that most distinguished Ngotho’s household from many other polygamous families,” Ngũgĩ notes. The reason for this closeness, he suggests, is Ngotho himself, who acts as a “stable centre” for the entire family.
In keeping with the idea that British colonists don’t want to empower Africans, Ngũgĩ explains in this section that only certain farmers are allowed grow pyrethrum, a profitable crop that can be made into medicine or insecticide. This recalls Kamau’s earlier assertion that some people want to do what they can to keep power to themselves. By allowing a select few—like Jacobo—to grow pyrethrum, though, the settlers create a sense of competition and division amongst Kenyans, ultimately making it harder for people like Ngotho and Jacobo to unite and take a stand against the settlers themselves. In contrast to this divisiveness, Ngotho’s family is remarkably unified, though it’s worth noting that discord has already begun to work its way into this otherwise tight-knit group, since Boro has now shamed his father in front of the rest of the family.
Themes
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Boro and Kori leave home to live in Nairobi. After their departure, Kamau and Njoroge contemplate what it might be like for their brothers in this new city. Kamau remarks that Boro resents Ngotho and “the old generation” because they failed to win back their ancestral land. Nonetheless, Kamau points out, the “old generation” did try. “Some went in a procession to Nairobi soon after the end of the first war to demand the release of their leader who had been arrested,” he tells his younger brother, explaining that many of these people were shot by white people. After a moment of reflection, Kamau admits that he would also like to leave, admitting that he is going to end his apprenticeship because he already knows how to build furniture.
Kamau’s story about the group of elders who went in protest to Nairobi is unsettling, for it suggests that it is difficult to take a stand against white settlers even as a large, undivided group. If Kenyans were unable to resist the colonialists back then, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do so now, since the settlers have manufactured divisions in the community by giving certain people (like Jacobo) privileges over others, thereby creating power imbalances and socioeconomic rifts that didn’t previously exist.
Themes
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
Upset that Kamau wants to leave, Njoroge reminds his brother of the workers’ strike that is sure to happen soon. Nonetheless, Kamau says he doesn’t think he’ll participate in this strike against the white settlers and their exploitative ways. “But Father says that the strike is for all people who want the freedom of the black people,” Njoroge says, but Kamau remains unconvinced, and the two boys start down the hill toward home. On their way, Njoroge asks Kamau who Jomo is, and Kamau answers, “Boro called him the black Moses.” That night, Njoroge falls asleep thinking about how he wants to succeed in academia in order to avoid the fate of people like his father, who are forced to work for white settlers.
If successful, a workers’ strike against white settlers could effectively force people like Mr. Howlands to treat Kenyans better. Though it might not convince the settlers to return land to people like Ngotho, it would at least force them to offer better pay. Unfortunately, though, this will only work if everyone who works for a white settler agrees to join the strike. Judging by Kamau’s hesitancy, it seems unlikely that everyone will agree to take a stand against the settlers. However, it is hopeful that Kenyans now have a person to look to for guidance. Indeed, Boro upholds that Jomo Kenyatta is like a “black Moses,” a statement implying that this man might deliver Kenyans from their suffering just as Moses delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
Themes
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
Shortly thereafter, Kamau leaves Nganga and begins working as a carpenter in the African shops. Njoroge is glad that his brother hasn’t decided to go to Nairobi, but he knows Kamau is growing older and will someday leave him behind. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have many companions—other than Mwihaki—and so he takes refuge in books, turning most frequently to the Bible. “Njoroge came to place faith in the Bible and with his vision of an educated life in the future was blended a belief in the righteousness of God. Equity and justice were there in the world,” Ngũgĩ writes. “If you did well and remained faithful to your God, the Kingdom of Heaven would be yours. A good man would get a reward from God; a bad man would harvest bad fruits.”
As Njoroge goes to school and watches his brothers leave for Nairobi, he looks to religion for solace. This is unsurprising, considering that he is someone who wants to maintain his hope in the future. Religion, he believes, will help him maintain this hope, for he believes that if he remains “faithful,” he will “get a reward from God.” In this way, he conflates religion with education, seeing both as ways to make progress in life.
Themes
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Get the entire Weep Not, Child LitChart as a printable PDF.
Weep Not, Child PDF