Weep Not, Child

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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The Land Symbol Analysis

The Land Symbol Icon

In Weep Not, Child, the earth itself—and especially the land that white settlers stole from Ngotho’s family—represents the difference between colonialist notions of ownership and the wholistic, spiritual bond many Kenyans form with their farms. When Ngotho comes home from World War I to discover that white settlers have kicked his family members off of their ancestral land, he puts his faith in a prophecy upholding that the white people will one day vacate the country. Biding his time until this day, he works for Mr. Howlands, who now owns the farm that used to belong to him. He does this simply because he wants to remain close to the land, since he feels a responsibility to maintain this stretch of earth. “He owed it to the dead, the living, and the unborn of his line to keep guard over this shamba,” Ngugi writes, indicating that Ngotho’s connection to the land has to do with his emotional and ancestral investment in the soil itself. In fact, he experiences the loss of his farm as a “spiritual loss,” whereas Mr. Howlands sees the farmland as a “wild country” that he can “conquer.” By contrasting these two worldviews, Ngugi uses the land to symbolize the vast cultural differences between Kenyans and the white settlers, ultimately showing readers that colonialism’s obsession with land ownership arises out of a fundamental sense of greed and a total disregard not only for other people, but also for the earth.

The Land Quotes in Weep Not, Child

The Weep Not, Child quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Land. 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 1 Quotes

The first two valleys went into the Country of the Black People. The other two divided the land of the Black People from the land of the White People. This meant that there were four ridges that stood and watched one another. Two of the ridges on the opposite sides of the long sides of the plain were broad and near one another. The other two were narrow and had pointed ends. You could tell the land of Black People because it was red, rough, and sickly, while the land of the white settlers was green and was not lacerated into small strips.

Related Symbols: The Land
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:
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:

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 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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The Land Symbol Timeline in Weep Not, Child

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Land 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
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...understand why Europeans fight amongst themselves, it’s better to simply “be content with knowing the land you lived in, and the people who lived near you.” If this isn’t enough, he... (full context)
Chapter 2
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...shows him the 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... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...Day because Juliana—Jacobo’s wife—invited him and a handful of other children who work on the land for a party. During grace, a boy next to Njoroge made a funny noise, and... (full context)
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
As Njoroge goes to find Kamau, he passes Nganga’s land. Nganga is the carpenter with whom Kamau is apprenticed, and Njoroge thinks about how Ngotho... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...tells a version of the creation story, explaining that God bequeathed their ancestors with the land before them. “Where did the land go?” Njoroge interrupts, and Ngotho says, “I am old... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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.” Going... (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
...World War II, he found himself unable to find a job, and “there was no land on which he could settle.” As he listens to Ngotho’s story, these injustices reoccur to... (full context)
Chapter 3
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
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...Njoroge thinks about the story Ngotho told his family about how white people stole their land. Because Mwihaki is Jacobo’s daughter—and because Jacobo is close to the white settlers—he decides he... (full context)
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...However, Kamau explains again that he doesn’t want to go to school. “A man without land must learn to trade,” he says. “Father has nothing. So what I am doing is... (full context)
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...hard way. It is not much that a man can do without a piece of land.” He tells his son that “education is everything,” but what he truly believes is that... (full context)
Chapter 5
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 7
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...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... (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... (full context)
Chapter 9
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...bad because they’re fighting against the white settlers. “Is it bad to fight for one’s land?” he asks. “But they cut black men’s throats,” responds another boy. “Those killed are the... (full context)
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
...afraid of the fact that Jacobo—who hates his family—is the “most powerful man in the land.” Sooner or later, he thinks, he will “retaliate.” These days, Ngotho feels as if the... (full context)
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...“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,... (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... (full context)
Chapter 12
Division and Conquest Theme Icon
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
...says, “No. Nothing. Except revenge.” When the lieutenant asks if he cares about recapturing the land, Boro replies, “The lost land will come back to us maybe. But I’ve lost too... (full context)
Violence and Revenge Theme Icon
Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...and me?” At a loss, the lieutenant asks why Boro fights, if not for the land or for freedom. “To kill,” Boro states. “Unless you kill, you’ll be killed. So you... (full context)
Chapter 17
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)