Interpretive or Persuasive Essay on Your Favorite Contemporary Author
Date of submission:
The River Between by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a prolific Kenyan writer whose works includes writing novels, short stories, plays, and essays which range from social criticism to writing children’s literature(Gikandi 06). Ngugi is currently a Distinguished Professor in Comparative Literature and English at the University of California in Irvine.
In his novel ‘The River Between’ Ngugi develops a fiction portraying how the Kikuyu; a community in East Africa viewed the colonial war. He depicts the Mau Mau Rebellion, which involved a violent uprising by Kikuyu people against British colonialism an event that led the region into a state of emergency between 1952 and 1960. He mainly focused on the conflict that existed between the Christian missionaries and the various indigenous tribes who were completely radical to their culture and Traditional African religion that were rigid of accepting new religion and beliefs (Sicherman 352). Ngugi adopts a Narrative writing style where he uses a more descriptive language and imagery; he wants the reader and audience to imagine the scenes, characters, and the setting in order to become part of his story’s world and so as to connect to its plot
The theme of traditions is evident in this novel whereby the villagers are led by the elders and a young man called Waiyaki-who was a descendant in a family whose lineage was composed of leaders of the community stubborn to their traditions despite the missionaries` efforts to spread a new religion of Christianity. However, there is one character by the name Joshua who embraces the new religion and this lands him in trouble since he is now considered as an outcast in the community bringing about the theme of conflict. Joshua becomes a staunch Christian and ensures that his family which consists of him, the wife and their two daughters follow Christian teachings to the letter. His efforts become abortive since one of his daughters despite being converted to a Christian still has a strong attraction to the communities traditional cultures forcing her to rebel his father, where she decides to practise female circumcision which was a common tradition in the society. From this, we learn that change is very hard to bear and one is always attracted to the past probably because he is used to it and it seems to be a comfort zone thus one is uncomfortable to abandon the status quo.
Ngugi uses suspense in his writing of the story so as to make us eager to know the unfolding of the story. For example, when one of Joshua’s daughter rebels against we are eager to know what happens later to find out more information. He also uses imagery to explain how the landscape of the region is situated where he describes the topology of the land being formed of two ridges which laid antagonistically and separated by a river called ‘Honia’ which meant cure in the local language.
The purpose of imagery is to make the reader feel as if he/she is part of the story for he is able to form the various scenarios in his mind (Thiong`o 35). The conflict between Christians and traditionalists heightened when Waiyaki the young leader of the traditionalist falls in love with Joshua’s daughter who was a Christian. The traditionalists started turning against him claiming that he had broken the communities taboo, but this was not the case. Waiyaki had now started being liberated from the chains of his traditions and had become accommodative to Christianity for he was able to notice that it was a good religion based on facts, unlike his fellow villagers who opposed it without facts. Here Ngugi tries to pass the message that Change is inevitable, however, resistant one may be he would gradually embrace the change.
Thiong’o, Ngugi Wa. The river between. Penguin, 2015.
Gikandi, Simon. Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Vol. 8. Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Sicherman, Carol M. “Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the Writing of Kenyan History.” Research in African Literatures (1989): 347-370.