Who is Gathoni in Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Ngugi wa Mirii's play I Will Marry When I Want?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Ngugi wa Mirii's play I Will Mary When I Want, Gathoni is Kiguunda's beautiful daughter. Kiguunda is a farm worker in postcolonial Kenya who is happy to own one half of an acre of his own land though his family is still poor. When John Muhuuni, the son of Kiguunda's employer Kioi, begins courting Gathoni, at first Kiguunda opposes the match but relents when he realizes Muhuuni would be a wealthy husband who could provide well for Gathoni.

Gathoni begins acting rebelliously the moment she begins being courted by Muhuuni. Though her mother Wangeci doesn't trust Muhuuni, she says she doesn't care who Gathoni marries so long as she is taken care of. We especially see her distrust of Muhuuni when he is heard honking his car horn to summons Gathoni out rather than walking into their small one-room mud flat to greet her. As her mother Wangeci phrases it, "What kind of a person is this? He never enters the house to greet people!" (p. 20)

However, though Muhuuni showers Gathoni with expensive gifts, he does not marry her. Instead, he impregnates her illegitimately, and she is cast out of her home to become a prostitute and a barmaid.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gathoni is the beautiful daughter of Kiguunda and Wangeci. Her mother, Wangeci, has kept her home and has never sent her to school so that she can work picking coffee and tea. Gathoni surprises her parents by telling them that she will marry when she wants to, and they believe her rebellion comes from being a modern child, as modern children "have no manners at all." Gathoni is being courted by John Muhuuni (the wealthy son of Kioi), and he gives her a dress. Desiring his wealth, Gathoni runs off with him to Mombasa. Kigunnda and Wangeci agree to have a Christian wedding so that Kioi will agree to their daughter's union with John Muhuuni. However, John Muhuuni later deserts Gathoni when he finds out she is pregnant and they are living in Nairobi. Kiguunda throws Gathoni out of the house, and she becomes a barmaid. Gathoni symbolizes the way in which young women in Kenya are not educated and, under the influence of westernization, are left without husbands or chances to better themselves.

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