Wedding At The Cross Summary

In Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's, "Wedding at the Cross," why does Miriamu, raised in a life of Westernized privilege, seem to suffer no ill effects in giving that life up, while Wariuki, who has never known such a life, longs for it? Also, compare and contrast the different effects colonial life has on the minds of these two characters. 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that there are some basic reasons why the characterizations of both lovers take different directions.  The first reason is the political one.  Ngugi depicts the impact of colonization and its prejudices as castrating to Wariuki.  The dehumanizing impact of Colonialism is in how it reduces Wariuki to nothing more than being sub- human.  This dehumanization and the castration he experienced is what drives him to embrace a life that could compete with "those people."  Colonialism creates a pathology of self- hate within him, compelling to no longer be Wariuki, but rather become Dodge W.  Livingstone, Jr.  He becomes fascinated with the privilege and wealth that remains in the domain of Colonialism in order to exact vengeance for the dehumainzation and belittling castration that he was forced to experience at its hands.  The fact that he never knew it only enhances his attraction to it.

In that fateful meeting with Mr. Jones, he realizes that he is in the presence of something that is beyond his normal capacities.  He treats it with respect and a sense of professionalism.  However, the closing to that meeting is what lingers in his mind, a reflection of Colonialism's perception of indigenous people:  "He was a hunted animal." 

Miriamu seeks only to find a sense of true understanding of self.  She is initially attracted to Wariuki not because of seeking to reject her Colonial- embracing upbringing.  Rather, she wants to find her own voice in a world where it has been conditioned not to exist.  This "independent spirit" had been a critical part of her own identity which enabled her to be attracted to Wariuki.  She rejects colonialism because of her associations with it.  Repression, silencing of voice, and the necessary conditions in which existing for social perceptions dominate are the reasons she ends up rejecting it. Such a rejection becomes reason she leaves with him, enduring disowning from her parents.  Consider that in the final scene, she openly says that she "fell in love with Wariuki."  Her rejection of it was rooted in the need to find her own voice which resided in her love for Wariuki.

In the end, Ngugi makes clear that one of the most catastrophic conditions of Colonization is how it has the tendency to fill the individual with a condition of pathological self- hate.  In part, this is a psychological reality.  Miriamu possesses a clear sense of psychological identity and grounding, allowing her to reject the fraudulence of Colonialism.  Wariuki lacks this, embracing what he hates so much that he becomes that which he detests.

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