THE RIVER BETWEEN(1965) NGUGI WA THIONGO.
Ngugi’s “The River Between” is an exhilarating novel set in a rural location of the Gikuyu ethnic community, Ngugi’s own ethnic community. The River Between provides a full narration of the effects of colonialism on the ethnic communities in Kenya. This he achieves by highlighting the Agikuyu or Gikuyu community of Kenya.
Waiyaki, the main character in the novel, is brought up by his father Chege to believe that he is the only hope for the ridges Kameno and Makuyu ever uniting and preserving their traditional ways. Chege is a worried man. This is so because of the coming of the “white man” to the ridges. The great prophet of the land, Mugo wa Kibiro had in his prophecy fore seen this happening. He prophesized the white man invading the ridges. Mugo prophesized that “…there shall come a people with clothes like butterflies…” The people did not believe what he prophesized and instead poured scorn on him, laughed at him and even went to the extreme of suggesting he was not “well”. He was rejected by his own people in is own land; “The seer was rejected by the people of the ridges”.
Mugo’s last words on earth before he died were whispered to his son’s ear, he said “salvation shall come from the hills. From the blood that flows in me, I say from the same tree, a son shall rise. And his duty shall be to lead and save the people!”
Chege tells this prophecy to Waiyaki and tells him not to forget that he is the last in the “line” that came from Mugo and so he should take up the responsibility of saving the ridges from the white mans rule
River Honia which separates the two ridges is a very symbolic image in the text. River Honia, is the link between the two ridges, it acts as abridge between the two waring parties.
The narrator comments a bout Honia in the firat page when he says the two ridges were connected by one source of life, River Honia. The River never dried up; it’s given the human traits of being graceful and having a strong will to live by the narrator.
Waiyaki grows up to become a fine young man, a school teacher, who is respected by everyone in the community. He tries to fulfill the prophecy made by Mugo and carried on by his father Chege. Waiyaki is unfortunate as he is unable to unify the two ridges. He is torn between being faithfull to Nyambura, which means not being faithful to tradition and the ways of the people and being true to the oath he took with the kiama. Kabonyi fixed Waiyaki in the close of this book which is an anti climax as the reader is left in suspense, wondering what happens to Waiyaki and Nyambura. Kabonyi tells the people at the assembly that Waiyaki is marrying Joshua’s daughter an uncircumcised girl, which is an inconceivable and unacceptable idea to the people of the ridges.
Ngugi captures the Agikuyu ethnic community’s way of life very well in his book The River Between. He also manages to de mystify the post colonial repercussions on the ethnic communities of Kenya. The River Between is a great book recommendable for reading by everyone across the globe.
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