What does the ending of The River Between symbolize, and what insights are there?

This novel, while historically based in the culture of the Kikuyu people, is also a reflection of its author's own struggles with his place and purpose within Kenyan society in the 1960s. The novel is about the clash between two villages that are divided over whether or not to circumcise girls. Waiyaki (the main character) is caught between two worlds, one that allows him to take advantage of the opportunities offered by a missionary school and another (his home village) that requires him to uphold traditional Kikuyu beliefs. Ultimately, this struggle leads Waiyaki to reject his heritage and embrace Western culture. He falls in love with Joshua's daughter Ruth only to learn she has converted to Christianity.

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The River Between is a 1965 novel by Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. The narrative tells the story of two Kenyan neighboring villages in the Kikuyu community who are pushed further apart due to differences in faith. This story works with the backdrop of white colonist imperialism and deals with...

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The River Between is a 1965 novel by Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. The narrative tells the story of two Kenyan neighboring villages in the Kikuyu community who are pushed further apart due to differences in faith. This story works with the backdrop of white colonist imperialism and deals with ideas of preserving traditions.

The protagonist, Waiyaki, is believed to be the subject a prophecy that a savior will arise to mend the relationship between the two villages. As a child, Waiyaki was able to break up a fight between two older boys. As such, his father decides to enroll Waiyaki in a Christian missionary school for his education.

The disagreement comes to a breaking point over the proposed circumcision of the young girl Muthoni. Her subsequent death causes the missionary school to expel students whose families uphold the tradition of circumcision.

Waiyaki then falls in love with the daughter of Joshua, a Christian convert. This relationship puts him on trial for abandoning and betraying the tradition of his people, which confirms he will not become the prophesized savior. The novel ends with Waiyaki in the hands of the Kiama who will ultimately decide his fate.

The ending symbolizes and provides insight on the best way to bring about change: from the bottom up. In order to enact change or bring about education, it must be done in a respectful way within the context of traditional thinking. Coming into a new group and aggressively changing culture from the top down will ultimately be unsuccessful. This is particularly poignant as the reader considers the ideas of white European colonists in Africa.

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