Kiguunda owns a small plot of land but also depends on the income from working for Kioi. He is proud of his achievements and of his service in the independence movement (Mau Mau). Much of the plot centers on Kioi’s efforts to bring Kiguunda to Christianity—which involves incurring expenses for his daughter’s fancy wedding, later called off. Kiguunda gradually realizes that Kioi’s motives include taking his land and using him to suppress worker unrest. After he loses both the land and his job, he drowns his sorrows in alcohol until Gicaamba recruits him for the workers’ struggle.
Wangeci, Kiguunda’s wife, hopes for solutions to their poverty. Her contradictory feelings of envy and disdain for others’ post-independence prosperity fuel her interest in Christianity, which she appreciates largely for the social benefits it imparts. In the end, she supports the workers. When Gathoni gets pregnant, Wangeci sides with Gathoni against Kiguunda.
Kiguunda’s friend Gicaamba, a laborer in a factory, is a champion of workers’ rights. His leftist rejection of Christianity stems from mistrusting its role in foreign oppression. Gicaamba’s infectious activism brings Kiguunda into the fold.
Njooki, Gicaamba’s wife, a staunch advocate of the workers, also mistrusts Christians—especially Kioi.
Ahab Kioi wa Kanoru
Ahab Kioi wa Kanoru, who has parlayed his landholdings into a successful commercial network, represents the negative influences of globalization that came after independence. His efforts to manipulate Kiguunda and thus control his workers center on converting Kiguunda to Christianity. He also cheats Kiguunda out of his land so he can build a chemical plant on it.
Jezebel is married to Kioi. A devout Christian and zealous evangelist, she interprets religion as a yardstick of social and financial superiority more than as a matter of faith.
Samuel Ndugire, Kioi’s friend, is a Christian who has become successful as a farmer and shopkeeper. Siding with Kioi against the workers, Samuel supports Kioi's efforts to convert and co-opt Kiguunda.
Gathoni, Kiguunda’s and Wangeci’s daughter, falls in love with Muhuuni, Kioi’s son. After they have sex and she gets pregnant, he breaks up with her. Her father throws her out of the house, and takes a job at a seedy bar.