Weep Not, Child

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Mr. Howlands Character Analysis

A white settler in Kenya who has taken over the land that used to belong to Ngotho’s family. Originally from England, Mr. Howlands fought in World War I but soon became disillusioned with the war and his country. As such, he went to Kenya in the aftermath of the conflict, thinking of it as a place he could “conquer.” Years later, his eldest son was sent to fight in World War II, where he died, effectively solidifying Howlands’s resentment toward his home country. At the opening of Weep Not, Child, Howlands employs Ngotho as a farmhand, and though his wife, Suzannah, often fires their employees, he never lets her fire Ngotho because he knows Ngotho is a competent farmer. However, when news of a workers’ strike begins to circulate, he warns Ngotho and his other employees that anyone who joins the movement will be fired. Despite this, Ngotho does end up going on strike, making an enemy of Mr. Howlands. Later, Howlands becomes the District Officer of the colonialist “homeguard,” a position he is initially hesitant to accept because it realigns him with England. Nonetheless, he soon comes to love his job as District Officer because it enables him to oppress people like Ngotho and the members of the Mau Mau, all of whom Howlands resents because he knows they want to reclaim their land—land over which he firmly believes he has dominion. In fact, he feels so strongly about defending his farm that he eventually tortures Ngotho and Njoroge after Boro kills Jacobo. After having castrated Ngotho and beaten him almost to death, though, Howlands releases him, realizing that Ngotho is only trying to protect his family. Shortly thereafter, Boro sees what Howlands has done to his father, sneaks into Howlands house, and kills him.

Mr. Howlands Quotes in Weep Not, Child

The Weep Not, Child quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Howlands or refer to Mr. Howlands. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Weep Not, Child published in 1964.
Chapter 2 Quotes

When the war came to an end, Boro had come home, no longer a boy but a man with experience and ideas, only to find that for him there was to be no employment. There was no land on which he could settle, even if he had been able to do so. As he listened to this story, all these things came into his mind with a growing anger. How could these people have let the white man occupy the land without acting? And what was all this superstitious belief in a prophecy?

In a whisper that sounded like a shout, he said, “To hell with the prophecy.”

Yes, this was nothing more than a whisper. To his father, he said, “How can you continue working for a man who has taken your land? How can you go on serving him?”

He walked out, without waiting for an answer.

Related Characters: Boro (speaker), Ngotho, Mr. Howlands
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

He just loved to see Ngotho working in the farm; the way the old man touched the soil, almost fondling, and the way he tended the young tea plants as if they were his own . . . Ngotho was too much a part of the farm to be separated from it. Something else. He could manage the farm labourers as no other person could. Ngotho had come to him at a time when his money position was bad. But with the coming of Ngotho, things and his fortune improved.


Mr Howlands was tall, heavily built, with an oval-shaped face that ended in a double chin and a big stomach. In physical appearance at least, he was a typical Kenya settler. He was a product of the First World War. After years of security at home, he had been suddenly called to arms and he had gone to the war with the fire of youth that imagines war a glory. But after four years of blood and terrible destruction, like many other young men he was utterly disillusioned by the “peace.” He had to escape. East Africa was a good place. Here was a big trace of wild country to conquer.

Related Characters: Ngotho, Mr. Howlands
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Education is everything,” Ngotho said. Yet he doubted this because he knew deep inside his heart that land was everything. Education was good only because it would lead to the recovery of the lost lands.

Ngotho rarely complained. He had all his life lived under the belief that something big would happen. That was why he did not want to be away from the land that belonged to his ancestors. That was really why he had faithfully worked for Mr Howlands, tending the soil carefully and everything that was in it. His son had come and with one stroke had made him doubt that very allegiance to Mr Howlands and the soil. And with this doubt had now come an old man’s fear of his son. Boro had changed. This was all because of the war. Ngotho felt the war had dealt ill with him. It had killed one son! And the other was accusing him.

Related Characters: Ngotho (speaker), Njoroge, Mr. Howlands, Boro
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“I must be a man in my own house.”

“Yes—be a man and lose a job.”

“I shall do whatever I like. I have never taken orders from a woman.”

“We shall starve . . .”

“You starve! This strike is important for the black people. We shall get bigger salaries.”

“What's black people to us when we starve?”

Related Characters: Ngotho (speaker), Nyokabi (speaker), Mr. Howlands
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

There was only one god for him—and that was the farm he had created, the land he had tamed.

Related Characters: Mr. Howlands
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Mr Howlands felt a certain gratifying pleasure. The machine he had set in motion was working. The blacks were destroying the blacks. They would destroy themselves to the end. What did it matter with him if the blacks in the forest destroyed a whole village? What indeed did it matter except for the fact that labour would diminish? Let them destroy themselves. Let them fight against each other. The few who remained would be satisfied with the reservation the white man had set aside for them. Yes, Mr Howlands was coming to enjoy his work.

Related Characters: Ngotho, Mr. Howlands
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
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Weep Not, Child PDF

Mr. Howlands Character Timeline in Weep Not, Child

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Howlands appears in Weep Not, Child. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...postulates that Jacobo—the most successful black man in town—is as rich as the white Mr. Howlands because he “got education.” After he says this, Njoroge and Kamau wonder aloud why Mr.... (full context)
Chapter 2
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...Mwihaki by turning into Jacobo’s pyrethrum field. From this vantage point, he can see Mr. Howlands’s land, which lies just beyond an adjacent ridge. “That was where Ngotho, Njoroge’s father, worked,”... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...land. Now, Ngotho explains, he himself works on this ancestral land, which belongs to Mr. Howlands these days. (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...would eventually be driven away. As such, Ngotho has spent his time working for Mr. Howlands, “waiting for the prophecy to be fulfilled.” When Kori asks if he thinks this will... (full context)
Chapter 3
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...excuse for inactivity, or worse, a betrayal,” Ngũgĩ writes. When he arrives at work, Mr. Howlands greets him with something like kindness. Apparently, Ngotho is the only worker he treats this... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
Mr. Howlands, Ngũgĩ explains, is a “product of the First World War,” in which he fought for... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...lived happily for a time. Eventually, their son started walking through the farm with Mr. Howlands, who relished the idea that he would be able to pass on the land after... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
Now, Ngotho walks with Mr. Howlands, each man surveying the shamba. “For Ngotho felt responsible for whatever happened to this land.... (full context)
Chapter 4
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 6
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
...treatment if they come together and take a stand against the white settlers. Unfortunately, Mr. Howlands has already warned Ngotho and the rest of his employees that if they go on... (full context)
Chapter 7
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 8
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...have given him two armed guards to protect him from guerilla fighters. As for Mr. Howlands, he is now the District Officer, meaning that he works closely with Jacobo. (full context)
Chapter 10
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
Sitting in his office in the newly built police quarters, Mr. Howlands looks out the window and thinks about his past, wondering if there is perhaps “no... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
“Did they want to drive him back to England, the forgotten land?” Mr. Howlands wonders. “Who were black men and Mau Mau anyway, he asked for the thousandth time.... (full context)
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Jacobo knocks on Mr. Howlands’s door and tells him he needs to speak with him. Mr. Howlands, for his part,... (full context)
Chapter 12
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Mr. Howlands felt a certain gratifying pleasure,” Ngũgĩ writes. “The machine he had set in motion was... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
For quite some time now, Mr. Howlands has fantasized about killing Ngotho, whom he sees as his “foe.” However, he has decided... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
...bring this to his attention earlier (there have been two more notes since this one), Howlands asks who he thinks sent this message. Jacobo tells him he thinks Ngotho is behind... (full context)
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...with gas, bombs, and everything.” He then states that Jacobo “must die,” along with Mr. Howlands. (full context)
Chapter 15
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
...taken the Mau Mau oath. At one point during the questioning, he realizes that Mr. Howlands is also there, watching him. Advancing upon Njoroge, the white man says, “Who murdered Jacobo?”... (full context)
Chapter 17
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
“I killed Jacobo,” Boro told Mr. Howlands as he pointed the gun. “He betrayed black people. Together, you killed many sons of... (full context)
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
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... (full context)