In The River Between, how does Waiyaki feel about, and react to, the coming of the white man and the white man’s religion, Christianity?
Waiyaki, just like his father, initially believes that the coming of the white man and subsequent introduction of Christianity poses a threat to the Kikuyu tradition and customs. Believing that he is the liberator of his people as per the ancient prophecy, Waiyaki sets out for the mission school for several years. The objective of this journey is to learn the white man’s ways so as to devise an effective remedy that would guard the integrity of the Kikuyu in light of the threat posed by Christianity and the settlers.
However, education opens up Waiyaki’s mind, and he adopts a new philosophy of love and reconciliation. He resigns from his position as a traditionalist leader and pursues his course to educate and enlighten his people, believing firmly that this would unite them. However, he discovers too late that unity alone is not enough; that if they want true liberation, this unity should be used to forge political action against the oppressive colonial structure that had permeated his community. Unfortunately, at the banks of Honia, Waiyaki fails to convince his tribesmen of his conviction and they abandon him and Nyambura to the fate determined by Kiama.
Let us remember that Waiyaki is the son of Chege, and the last in a long line of Africans that stems back to a famous seer who declared that one of his descendants would become a saviour for Gikuyu people and warned against the coming of the white man. Chege has taken this prophecy very much to heart and believes that his son, Waiyaki, is the coming Messiah who will save his people. However, so that his son is equipped and ready to fulfill his role, Chege has sent his son to Siriana to learn the ways of the white man:
The boy was doing well at Siriana. He had early gone through the second birth. And this season he would be initiated into manhood. This would help him to absorb the white man's wisdom more quickly and help the tribe.
Waiyaki therefore sees the wisdom that can be gained from the white men and is eager to learn it. He sees the many benefits that education can bestow, however at the same time he is also a strong believer in traditional Gikuyu culture and society, as his circumcision shows.