Weep Not, Child

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Ngotho Character Analysis

Njoroge’s father. Ngotho has two wives, Njeri and Nyokabi, and multiple children, but he institutes a “stable” familial “centre,” thereby establishing a unity that not all polyamorous families have. When he was a young man, he was forced into military service by the British colonialists during World War I, a period in which he helped the settlers build roadways throughout Kenya. When he returned, he expected to be rewarded for having contributed to the war effort, but was surprised to find that the British had stolen his family’s land. Believing a prophecy that white people will eventually be driven away, Ngotho stays close to his land by working for Mr. Howlands, a white settler who now presides over the farm. Prone to indecision, Ngotho finds himself torn when his fellow Kenyans organize a workers’ strike against the settlers. Because Mr. Howlands has said that anyone who strikes will be fired, he isn’t sure whether or not to keep working. Despite this indecision, he suddenly determines to join the strike when he discovers that Jacobo has betrayed Kenyans by siding with the white settlers—in a rage, Ngotho stands up at a village meeting and attacks the man, instigating a feud that lasts the entire novel. To make things even more complicated, Ngotho’s son, Boro, constantly shames him for failing to protect the family. In order to prove Boro wrong, Ngotho later takes the blame for killing Jacobo (even though Boro is the one who committed the murder). This is the old man’s last attempt to prove his honor, and he dies after Mr. Howlands castrates and beats him.

Ngotho Quotes in Weep Not, Child

The Weep Not, Child quotes below are all either spoken by Ngotho or refer to Ngotho. 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

“All of us were taken by force. We made roads and cleared the forest to make it possible for the warring white man to move more quickly. The war ended. We were all tired. We came home worn-out but very ready for whatever the British might give us as a reward. But, more than this, we wanted to go back to the soil and court it to yield, to create, not to destroy. But Ng’o! The land was gone. My father and many others had been moved from our ancestral lands. He died lonely, a poor man waiting for the white man to go.”

Related Characters: Ngotho (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

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:
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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:
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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:
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Chapter 5 Quotes

Njoroge usually stood on this hill whenever he wanted to see his mother or brother coming from a distance. If he saw any of them he ran and helped them carry whatever they had. It did not matter if it was Njeri or any of her sons. The feeling of oneness was a thing that most distinguished Ngotho’s household from many other polygamous families. Njeri and Nyokabi went to the shamba or market together. Sometimes they agreed among themselves that while one did that job the other would do this one. This was attributed to Ngotho, the centre of the home. For if you have a stable centre, then the family will hold.

Related Characters: Njoroge, Ngotho, Nyokabi, Njeri
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

Jacobo, the richest man in all the land around, had been brought to pacify the people. Everyone listened to him in silence. But something unusual happened to Ngotho. For one single moment Jacobo crystallised into a concrete betrayal of the people. He became the physical personification of the long years of waiting and suffering—Jacobo was a traitor. Ngotho rose. He made his way towards the platform while everyone watched, wondering what was happening. He was now near Jacobo. The battle was now between these two—Jacobo on the side of the white people, and he on the side of the black people.

Related Characters: Ngotho, Jacobo
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 8 Quotes

Ngotho did not speak much. He sat in his own corner and Njoroge could not tell if he was listening to what was going on. Ngotho was changing. Soon after the strike Boro quarrelled much with the old man. He accused him of having spoilt everything by his rash action in spite of Kiarie’s warning. Boro clearly had contempt for Ngotho. But he had never expressed it in words except on those two occasions. Since then, he had become more critical of Ngotho. Ngotho, as a result, had diminished in stature, often assuming a defensive secondary place whenever talking with his sons and their friends. For months he had remained in this position, often submitting unflinchingly to his son. And then Boro thought that he could make the old man submit to his will. But Ngotho made a determined resistance. He would not take the Mau Mau oath at his son’s hands or instruction. There had been a bitter quarrel and Boro had stayed for a long time without coming home.

Related Characters: Njoroge, Ngotho, Jacobo, Boro, Kiarie
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 9 Quotes

But what could he have done? He had to go on strike. He had not wanted to be accused by a son anymore, because when a man was accused by the eyes of his son who had been to war and had witnessed the death of a brother, he felt guilty. But Ngotho had always wanted to be gentle with Boro because he knew that the son must have been sorely tried in the war. The something that had urged him to fight against Jacobo certainly had no logic. But it alienated Boro further still.

Related Characters: Ngotho, Jacobo, Boro
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 10 Quotes

Was he a man any longer, he who had watched his wife and son taken away because of breaking the curfew without a word of protest? Was this cowardice? It was cowardice, cowardice of the worst sort. He stood up and rushed to the door like a madman. It was too late. He came back to his seat, a defeated man, a man who cursed himself for being a man with a lost manhood. He now knew that even that waiting had been a form of cowardice, putting off of action.

Related Characters: Ngotho, Njeri, Kori
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Ngotho Character Timeline in Weep Not, Child

The timeline below shows where the character Ngotho appears in Weep Not, Child. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Having listened to the barber, Ngotho—Njoroge’s father—goes home and thinks about his own wartime experiences, though he was only in the... (full context)
Chapter 2
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...way. “Mwihaki was a daughter of Jacobo,” Ngũgĩ explains. “Jacobo owned the land on which Ngotho lived.” Like Njoroge, Mwihaki is a student, but she has already started school, since her... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...can see Mr. Howlands’s land, which lies just beyond an adjacent ridge. “That was where Ngotho, Njoroge’s father, worked,” Ngũgĩ writes. (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...land. Nganga is the carpenter with whom Kamau is apprenticed, and Njoroge thinks about how Ngotho had to pay “a huge fattened he-goat and a hundred and fifty shillings” to convince... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...endowed.” Going on, he upholds that sometimes “Europeans are better than Africans,” which is why Ngotho can be heard from time to time saying he’d rather work for a white man.... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...night, many family members are present. “Boro, Kori, and Kamau were all sons of Njeri, Ngotho’s eldest wife,” Ngũgĩ writes. “Njoroge’s only true brother was Mwangi who had died in the... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
“Then came the war,” Ngotho says, continuing his story. “It was the first big war. I was then young, a... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
Fortunately, Ngotho upholds that the old prophet also predicted that “the white man” would eventually be driven... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
Listening to his father, Boro thinks about how Ngotho “fought in the war only to be dispossessed.” “He too had gone to war, against... (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
Walking to the work the next day, Ngotho thinks about Boro’s words. For years, he has been waiting for the prophecy to come... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...of wild country to conquer.” After settling on what used to be the farm of Ngotho’s family, he then returned to England to find a wife, which is when he brought... (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... (full context)
Chapter 4
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
Before Njoroge starts school again, Ngotho says, “You must learn to escape the conditions under which we live. It is a... (full context)
Chapter 5
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 6
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
...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 strike, they will immediately... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Troubled by Nyokabi’s points, Ngotho slaps her across  the face, at which point Njoroge jumps up and stands between them.... (full context)
Chapter 7
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Listening to Jacobo, Ngotho grows angry. Jacobo, he determines, is a “traitor,” a man who has betrayed his people.... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Having been kicked off Jacobo’s land, Ngotho and his family are “given a place to build by Nganga,” who takes pity on... (full context)
Chapter 8
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...Kamau speak highly of the man. In the years since the incident between Jacobo and Ngotho, Jacobo has been made a chief by the white settlers, who have given him two... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...Jomo’s trial, since “they know he’ll win the case.” As the family discusses the situation, Ngotho sits quietly in the corner. “Ngotho was changing,” Ngũgĩ notes. “Soon after the strike Boro... (full context)
Chapter 9
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...that Jomo has lost his trial. Kori explains that the entire hearing was rigged, and Ngotho becomes afraid of the fact that Jacobo—who hates his family—is the “most powerful man in... (full context)
Chapter 10
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...except as part of his farm itself—but now he bears a grudge against people like Ngotho. “Yes, he would wring from every single man the last drop till they had all... (full context)
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
...a “savage”). Nonetheless, he allows the man into his office, and Jacobo tells him that Ngotho is a “very terrible man” who has taken “oaths.” “What has he done?” Howlands asks,... (full context)
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Late that night, Ngotho sits in Nyokabi’s hut. Eventually, Kori and Njeri retire to Njeri’s hut, and as they... (full context)
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...the person he truly wants to capture is Boro. Nevertheless, he doesn’t “lose hope.” Meanwhile, Ngotho wallows in guilt, and Njoroge is sure that “if a child hit [him], he would... (full context)
Chapter 12
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 to wait, since he wants... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
...this one), Howlands asks who he thinks sent this message. Jacobo tells him he thinks Ngotho is behind it, since Njoroge recently came into his house. Taking in this information, Howlands... (full context)
Chapter 15
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Shortly thereafter, Ngotho himself wakes up but can’t tell if it’s daytime or nighttime. The wounds from his... (full context)
Chapter 16
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...who opens his eyes for the first time since returning from detainment. “You are here…” Ngotho says to Njoroge. “You come from school,” he says, and Njoroge lies by saying, “Yes,... (full context)
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
As Ngotho laments the fact that Boro left because he discovered that he was a useless father,... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Five months after Ngotho’s death, Njoroge takes a job working for an Indian in the marketplace. As he tries... (full context)
Chapter 18
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...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!”... (full context)
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...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... (full context)