Weep Not, Child


Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Themes and Colors
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
Land Ownership and Power Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Weep Not, Child, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Division and Conquest

Based on a turbulent period of Kenyan history that saw the slow upheaval of British colonial rule, Weep Not, Child examines the impact of cultural division. More specifically, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o illustrates how thoroughly British settlers were able to sow discord in Kenya as recently as the 1950s, essentially pitting Kenyans against one another in order to better conquer and rule the country. The ubiquity of this practice is made evident in Weep Not, Child

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Violence and Revenge

In Weep Not, Child, Ngũgĩ frames violence as futile and self-perpetuating. Although characters like Boro believe in taking revenge on the people who have oppressed them, readers see that violent retribution is ineffective when it comes to bringing about positive change. Indeed, the true result of Boro’s decision to murder Jacobo—who has wronged his family and community—is that Njoroge (Boro’s little brother) is suddenly taken out of school, beaten, and interrogated by the…

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Hope, Progress, and Disillusionment

Throughout Weep Not, Child, Njoroge clings to his hope that life will improve if only he continues to work hard for the things he values and loves. First and foremost, this means pursuing an education, which he believes will enable him to uplift his community. Indeed, his desire to learn is admirable because it not only indicates his determination to improve himself, but also his motivation to help the people he cares about. In…

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Pride and Honor vs. Guilt and Shame

In Weep Not, Child, Ngũgĩ considers how a person’s sense of honor informs the way he or she behaves. Most notably, Ngotho spends a great deal of energy thinking about whether or not he’s upholding his familial duties as the head of his household. However, because he’s unsure how to respond to the various challenges that present themselves—including whether or not to rise up against colonialists—he finds himself feeling guilty for failing to actively…

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Land Ownership and Power

The majority of the disputes and tensions that arise in Weep Not, Child have to do with land ownership. Because white settlers like Mr. Howlands came to Kenya and took possession of farms belonging to black families, it’s obvious they don’t have a true right to the land. Unfortunately, though, this doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from their newly acquired property. In keeping with this, Ngotho correctly believes that land ownership leads to power, since…

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