At the beginning of the next school year, Njoroge and Mwihaki learn that they’ve both passed their exams, meaning they can continue their education. Joyously, they run home together, holding hands until they break off and go to their own houses. When Mwihaki enters her home, though, she finds her mother and siblings in a somber huddle. “I’ve always said that your father will end up by being murdered!” her mother shouts, and when Mwihaki asks what has happened, she receives no answer. Meanwhile, Njoroge comes home and finds his mother distraught. “It’s the strike!” she says, and he suddenly remembers that the strike was supposed to start on that day.
In this scene, Ngũgĩ juxtaposes Njoroge and Mwihaki’s starry-eyed and optimistic hope for the future with the bleak reality of their circumstances. Although he hasn’t yet revealed the disaster that has come to pass, it’s clear that Njoroge and Mwihaki’s success in school will pale in comparison to whatever has happened.
“Many people had gone to the meeting that was being held on the first day of the strike,” Ngũgĩ writes, indicating that Ngotho was in attendance. First, Kiarie spoke, urging his listeners to strike in order to resist the exploitative white settlers. “Remember,” he says, “this must be a peaceful strike. We must get more pay. Because right is on our side we shall triumph. If today, you’re hit, don’t hit back…” At this point, a white police officer accompanies Jacobo to the front of the crowd. “It was only when Jacobo had begun to speak and was urging people to go back to work and not to listen to some people from Nairobi who had nothing to lose if people lost their jobs that Ngotho understood,” Ngũgĩ explains. “Jacobo, the richest man in all the land around, had been brought to pacify the people.”
When Ngũgĩ says that Jacobo has “been brought to pacify the people,” he means that the white settlers have recruited him to keep his fellow Kenyans from going on strike. As such, it becomes clear that Jacobo has sided with the settlers, ultimately betraying his own people because he is—like the settlers themselves—a rich man. Of course, he is only rich because the settlers have allowed him to grow pyrethrum as a way of creating inequality amongst black people, but he clearly doesn’t take this into account.
Listening to Jacobo, Ngotho grows angry. Jacobo, he determines, is a “traitor,” a man who has betrayed his people. “He became the physical personification of the long years of waiting and suffering,” Ngũgĩ notes. Before he knows what he’s doing, Ngotho stands and advances upon Jacobo. “All of a sudden, as if led by Ngotho, the crowd rose and rushed toward Jacobo,” Ngũgĩ writes. Suddenly, chaos overtakes the meeting, as police officers use tear gas and shoot guns into the crowd. His courage quickly failing him, Ngotho runs through the crowd without knowing where he’s going. A police officer hits him in the face with a baton, though Ngotho continues to run until, finally free of the mob, he falls to the ground and loses consciousness. Before long, his fellow villagers find him and take him home.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Ngotho has recently been shamed by Boro for failing to take action when the white settlers took the family’s land. This is perhaps why he responds to Jacobo’s betrayal with such an impulsive thirst for revenge—he has, after all, been thinking lately about how he must uphold his honor and fulfill his role as the family’s protector. Unfortunately, though, he completely ignores Kiarie’s call for a peaceful form of resistance. In turn, he invites chaos and mayhem. What’s more, by attacking Jacobo, he plays directly into the hands of the white settlers, who actively want to sow division within the black community.
In the aftermath of this incident, Njoroge and his family members wonder how Jacobo got involved with the white settlers in the first place. “Few knew that to the government and the settlers around, Jacobo, being a rich man, had a lot of influence on the people,” Ngũgĩ writes, suggesting that Jacobo “impressed” his importance on “the local white community, including Mr. Howlands, who had not taken him seriously until the hour of need.” Indeed, when the time came, police officers had called upon Jacobo, who “could not have refused” their offer.
In this moment, Ngũgĩ confirms once and for all that the white settlers are all too eager to use Jacobo to create discord and division amongst Kenyans. Contrary to what Jacobo might think, people like Mr. Howlands don’t respect him or care about him at all, except for the fact that they can manipulate him into weakening his own community’s ability to rise up as a unified group.
In the days following the bloody encounter, everyone is abuzz with opinions about what happened. “I would have done the same thing,” says a man at the barber’s. “It would have been all right if it had been a white man, but a black man—like you and me! It shows that we black people will never be united. There must always be a traitor in our midst.” Turning their attention more specifically to Jacobo and Ngotho, the patrons of the barbershop lament what has happened, saying, “It’s sad what has happened to Ngotho. He has been told to leave Jacobo’s land.” In response, a man says, “But Jacobo found him there when he bought the land from the previous owner.” Seeing a police officer approaching, the group disbands. “By now many people knew that the strike had failed,” Ngũgĩ notes.
The barber’s shop is perhaps one of the only places where a true sense of unity abounds. As the customers get their hair cut, they speak openly about what has happened in their community, keenly assessing that the heart of the problem is that Kenyans are not “united.” This division, they understand, leads to nothing but violence and tragedy, as evidenced by the fact that Ngotho’s dispute with Jacobo has forced him and his family to find a new place to live.
Having been kicked off Jacobo’s land, Ngotho and his family are “given a place to build by Nganga,” who takes pity on the family despite the fact that Kamau never liked him. Still, though, this kindness doesn’t make this period any easier for Njoroge and his family, since they need money to build new huts. Furthermore, the fees for Njoroge’s school have increased, and Mwihaki has left for a girls’ boarding school far from town. On his third day in school, Njoroge is sent home because he doesn’t have enough money, and so he spends his time praying and trying to figure out how he will achieve his academic goals. Thankfully, Kamau has recently received a raise, and so he gives his brother his extra earnings. In conjunction with money that Kori lends him, Njoroge is able to return to school.
The fact that Kamau is the one who ends up enabling Njoroge to return to school justifies his previous commitment to becoming a carpenter. Although Njoroge tried hard to convince his brother to quit his apprenticeship and go to school, Kamau refused, upholding that it was important for him to learn a trade and earn money so that he could help support Njoroge’s education. Now that he actually is supporting Njoroge, readers see that Kamau was serious when he said that Njoroge’s education is for the entire family, as he clearly believes in the importance of Njoroge’s schooling enough to pay for it himself.