Why did author Ngugi wa Thiong'o  title his play The Black Hermit?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Ngugi wa Thiong'o titled his important play The Black Hermit because it is exactly what his protagonist Remi was trying to be--a black hermit.

Remi had abandoned his African village to move to the city due to political reasons. During this time period in South Africa, African tribes wanted to adopt a policy of separatism by establishing their own African states, desperate from British colonizers. Yet many people, like the protagonist Remi, dreamed of a united South Africa. We learn in Act 2 that, while Remi was at university, Remi encouraged his village to vote for the Africanist Party and the Prime Minster in hopes of someday establishing a unified South Africa. He detested the Democtratic Union that promoted separatism because he saw that separatism was only a way for African states to corruptly compete for "access to governmental power" in which they could promote their own self-interests (p. 25; p. 24; "Themes").

Hence, one reason why he left the village is because, as he expresses to his friend Omange in the city, he felt "trapped by the tribe" and their corrupt, separatist agenda and wanted "to be [himself]," alone as himself (p. 25). Yet, once in the city, Remi also feels disillusioned due to all of the racism and political corruption.

Hence, as Remi tells his lover Jane, Remi saw himself as a "hermit" because he came to the city "in search of solitude" (p. 35). Yet when both the village elders and his pastor approach him in the city, he realizes he has obligations to both his village and his religion to fulfill and cannot be "the black hermit" forever.

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