Weep Not, Child

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Njoroge Character Analysis

Njoroge is the protagonist of Weep Not, Child. A boy living in central Kenya, Njoroge is the first person in his family to receive an education—a fact that makes him deeply proud. When Njoroge’s biological mother, Nyokabi, tells him he’ll be attending school, he’s beside himself with excitement, quickly going to tell his half-brother, Kamau, the good news. In fact, everyone in Njoroge’s family is invested in his education, believing it will bring honor to the family and enable him to uplift the entire community. As such, Njoroge applies himself feverously to his studies, often competing—in a friendly way—with Mwihaki, a girl he has known since childhood and who is the daughter of Jacobo, a rich man who eventually becomes the enemy of Njoroge’s father and older brothers. As Njoroge’s family descends into turmoil as a result of the tensions between Kenya’s white settlers and the militant Mau Mau group fighting for freedom, Njoroge tries to focus on his studies, ultimately believing his education is the only thing that will ensure a better future. In keeping with this, he also turns to religion, insisting that he and his people will be delivered from suffering. As he grows older, though, his brothers and father are consumed by their rivalry with Jacobo, making it increasingly hard for him to pursue an education. Eventually, he is taken out of school and tortured by Mr. Howlands, a white landowner who believes his father killed Jacobo. In the aftermath of this traumatic event, which leaves his family with nothing, Njoroge is unable to continue his education. Cut off from all sense of hope, he turns to Mwihaki, but she refuses to run away with him. As a result, he decides to commit suicide, but changes his mind when he hears his mother calling his name.

Njoroge Quotes in Weep Not, Child

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

Nyokabi was proud of having a son in school. It made her soul happy and lighthearted whenever she saw him bending double over a slate or recounting to her what he had seen at school. She felt elated when she ordered her son to go and do some reading or some sums. It was to her the greatest reward she would get from her motherhood if she one day found her son writing letters, doing arithmetic, and speaking English.

Related Characters: Njoroge, Nyokabi
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Suddenly he realised that he did not want to meet her while he had on that piece of calico which, when blown by the wind, left the lower part of his body without covering. For a time he was irresolute and hated himself for feeling as he did about the clothes he had on. Before he had started school, in fact even while he made that covenant with his mother, he would never have thought that he would ever be ashamed of the calico, the only dress he had ever known since birth.

Related Characters: Njoroge, Mwihaki
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

“Blackness is not all that makes a man,” Kamau said bitterly. “There are some people, be they black or white, who don’t want others to rise above them. They want to be the source of all knowledge and share it piecemeal to others less endowed. That is what’s wrong with all these carpenters and men who have a certain knowledge. It is the same with rich people. A rich man does not want others to get rich because he wants to be the only man with wealth.”

Related Characters: Kamau (speaker), Njoroge, Nganga
Page Number: 21
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 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:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“Lord, do you think the strike will be a success?”

He wanted an assurance. He wanted a foretaste of the future before it came. In the Old Testament, God spoke to His people. Surely He could do the same thing now. So Njoroge listened, seriously and quietly. He was still listening when he fell asleep.

Related Characters: Njoroge (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
Chapter 9 Quotes

“The white man makes a law or a rule. Through that rule or law or whatever you may call it, he takes away the land and then imposes many laws on the people concerning that land and many other things, all without people agreeing first as in the old days of the tribe. Now a man rises and opposes that law which made right the taking away of land. Now that man is taken by the same people who made the laws against which that man was fighting. He is tried under those alien rules. Now tell me who is that man who can win even if the angels of God were his lawyers . . . I mean.”

Related Characters: Njeri (speaker), Njoroge, Boro, Jomo Kenyatta
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Through all this, Njoroge was still sustained by his love for and belief in education and his own role when the time came. And the difficulties of home seemed to have sharpened this appetite. Only education could make something out of this wreckage. He became more faithful to his studies. He would one day use all his learning to fight the white man, for he would continue the work that his father had started. When these moments caught him, he actually saw himself as a possible saviour of the whole God’s country. Just let him get learning.

Related Characters: Njoroge
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

“Don't be angry, Mwihaki. For what can I say now? You and I can only put faith in hope. Just stop for a moment, Mwihaki, and imagine. If you knew that all your days life will always be like this with blood flowing daily and men dying in the forest, while others daily cry for mercy; if you knew even for one moment that this would go on forever, then life would be meaningless unless bloodshed and death were a meaning. Surely this darkness and terror will not go on forever. Surely there will be a sunny day, a warm sweet day after all this tribulation, when we can breathe the warmth and purity of God […].”

Related Characters: Njoroge (speaker), Mwihaki
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

“Mwihaki, you are the one dear thing left to me. I feel bound to you and I know that I can fully depend on you. I have no hope left but for you, for now I know that my tomorrow was an illusion.”

Related Characters: Njoroge (speaker), Mwihaki
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

But as they came near home and what had happened to him came to mind, the voice again came and spoke, accusing him:

You are a coward. You have always been a coward. Why didn’t you do it?

And loudly he said, “Why didn't I do it?”

The voice said: Because you are a coward.

“Yes,” he whispered to himself, “I am a coward.”

And he ran home and opened the door for his two mothers.

Related Characters: Njoroge (speaker), Nyokabi, Njeri
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
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Njoroge Character Timeline in Weep Not, Child

The timeline below shows where the character Njoroge appears in Weep Not, Child. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Nyokabi calls her son, Njoroge, and asks him if he would like to go to school. Overjoyed, Njoroge can’t believe... (full context)
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Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
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When Njoroge’s half-brother Kamau comes home that evening, Njoroge tells him the good news and asks if... (full context)
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Njoroge accepts that Kamau will not be coming with him to school. He then postulates that... (full context)
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...are plenty of stories to hear in the village of Kipanga, which is reachable from Njoroge’s village of Mahua by following “the big road,” walking through the “ridges” and “valleys” and... (full context)
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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
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That Monday, Njoroge goes to school. Because he doesn’t know how to get there, Mwihaki shows him the... (full context)
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Njoroge gets used to school, though he keeps to himself, making a point of returning home... (full context)
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After school one day, Njoroge urges his mother to tell him stories, but she tells him to do his homework... (full context)
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Njoroge runs to find Kamau, who should be coming home from his apprenticeship. On his way,... (full context)
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Njoroge makes his way along the path and sees Mwihaki approaching. Suddenly, he feels acutely aware... (full context)
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As Njoroge goes to find Kamau, he passes Nganga’s land. Nganga is the carpenter with whom Kamau... (full context)
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When Njoroge finally finds Kamau, his brother complains about Nganga, saying that the man isn’t even teaching... (full context)
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That night, Njoroge gathers with his family to listen to stories. Included in this group are his older... (full context)
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...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 war. But they all behaved... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Njoroge continues to enjoy his time at school. In particular, he looks forward to taking English... (full context)
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One day, Mwihaki asks Njoroge why he’s avoiding her. “You always come out late,” he lies, trying to hide the... (full context)
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Mwihaki asks Njoroge if Stephen wanted to speak to him, but Njoroge says he doesn’t know. “He may... (full context)
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The following year, Njoroge is bumped up to Mwihaki’s class. Before the first day of classes, he spends time... (full context)
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Before Njoroge starts school again, Ngotho says, “You must learn to escape the conditions under which we... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...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.... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Upset that Kamau wants to leave, Njoroge reminds his brother of the workers’ strike that is sure to happen soon. Nonetheless, Kamau... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...Nairobi—friends who are politically active and passionate about the divide between white settlers and Kenyans. Njoroge notices that they often speak about Jomo, and so he listens intently, eager to know... (full context)
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Troubled by Nyokabi’s points, Ngotho slaps her across  the face, at which point Njoroge jumps up and stands between them. After advancing upon his son for a moment, Ngotho... (full context)
Chapter 7
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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.... (full context)
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Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
In the aftermath of this incident, Njoroge and his family members wonder how Jacobo got involved with the white settlers in the... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Interlude
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...“They want to leave the people without a leader,” a man says at the barbershop. Njoroge, for his part, is upset to hear that Jomo has been captured, since he has... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Njoroge listens to his classmates tell stories about Dedan Kimathi, the leader of the African Freedom... (full context)
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Njoroge now attends a new school because the local institutions have been closed by the government.... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Everyone in Njoroge’s village believes that if Jomo doesn’t win his trial, the “black people of Kenya” will... (full context)
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That night, news reaches Njoroge’s village that Jomo has lost his trial. Kori explains that the entire hearing was rigged,... (full context)
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...other things, all without people agreeing first as in the old days of the tribe.” Njoroge, for his part, is shocked to hear Njeri speak so passionately. “All white people stick... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...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 probably submit.” (full context)
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When Njoroge goes to school one day, he and his classmates discover a note demanding that the... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...The next day this would be announced as a victory over Mau Mau,” Ngũgĩ notes. Njoroge, for his part, lives in fear of an attack at school, but he doesn’t let... (full context)
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Mwihaki has been away at boarding school, but even when she’s home on break, Njoroge avoids her. “How could he have met her when her father and his were enemies... (full context)
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Two days later, Njoroge encounters Mwihaki on the road. “I’m so lonely here,” she admits, and though he knows... (full context)
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In church, Njoroge is surprised to find Isaka, who delivers a Bible passage about war and calamity, upholding... (full context)
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Inside, Njoroge observes the European style of Mwihaki’s house. As he looks at pictures on the wall,... (full context)
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After Njoroge speaks with Jacobo, he and Mwihaki go outside, where Mwihaki lies on the grass while... (full context)
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When Mwihaki stops crying, Njoroge eventually tells her that he believes things will get better. “Peace shall come to this... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...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 tells Jacobo that he can... (full context)
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Walking to a “Christian gathering” one morning, Njoroge carries a Bible and strides alongside a group singing religious songs. As he walks, he... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Njoroge passes his exam and is admitted to a mission school. Mwihaki also passes, but doesn’t... (full context)
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...And what are the People and the Country to you?” Seeing how upset she is, Njoroge says, “Don’t be angry, Mwihaki. […] You and I can only put faith in hope.... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Njoroge enjoys his time at the missionary school, reveling in the fact that he’s living out... (full context)
Chapter 15
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One Monday during the third term of Njoroge’s school year, he is pulled out of class by armed officers and whisked away to... (full context)
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Later that night, Njoroge awakes to the sound of a woman screaming and wonders if it’s one of his... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Njoroge sits with his mothers and looks at his father, who opens his eyes for the... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Five months after Ngotho’s death, Njoroge takes a job working for an Indian in the marketplace. As he tries to sell... (full context)
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...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 about him and... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Mwihaki accepts Njoroge’s invitation to meet—delivered through a note—and feels guilty about the fact that she has agreed... (full context)
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When Njoroge finally sees Mwihaki, he notices she seems to have “hardened” and “grown into a woman.”... (full context)
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After listening to Njoroge, Mwihaki expresses her doubt that he knew nothing about Boro’s plans to kill Jacobo. “Mwihaki,... (full context)
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...“Mwihaki, dear, I love you. Save me if you want. Without you I am lost,” Njoroge says. He then tells her that they can elope, like she once suggested. “No!” she... (full context)
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The next day, Njoroge leaves his mothers in the hut and walks along the road, eventually coming to the... (full context)
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“Let’s go home,” Nyokabi says. As Njoroge walks, he thinks about how he has “failed her” and about Ngotho’s last words, which... (full context)