Last Updated on July 23, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 318
Mugo, an orphan raised by his aunt, self-identifies as an outsider. He accidentally becomes caught up in Mau Mau despite his opposition to taking a political stance. Mugo’s intervention in an episode of police brutality toward a pregnant woman lands him in jail, but it also generates a myth around his heroism. He is a rival of the zealous revolutionary Kihika, whom he later betrays; the news leads to his execution by movement members.
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Karanja betrays the movement by collaborating with the British. He is a librarian who helps Mrs. Dickinson conduct her affair with John Thompson. As a member of the British-affiliated home guards, he later becomes Thabai’s cruel and tyrannical village chief. He disappears after independence is achieved.
Mumbi, Kihika’s sister, is a beautiful woman who marries Gikonyo. While he is incarcerated, she has an affair with Karanja and later has his son.
Gikonyo, a carpenter who later succeeds as a merchant, is Mumbi’s husband. He is imprisoned for six years for his participation in Mau Mau. His political disillusionment turns into personal despair when he learns of Mumbi’s infidelity.
Kihika was raised hearing Warui tell of the British rulers’ injustices but also attended Christian school. During the state of emergency, he joins the revolutionaries in the forest. After capturing a police station, he assassinates the British district officer, Thomas Robson.
John Thompson is the British administrative secretary whose incompetence has led to numerous Africans’ deaths. He opposes independence. A civil servant since World War II, he is negligent and apathetic and looks forward to retirement back home.
Wambui and Warui, an elderly couple who are long-term supporters of independence, are later disappointed at what they perceive as its limited effects. They plot to kill Karanja because of their suspicions of his treachery.
General R (which stands for Russia) and Lieutenant Koina are prominent Mau Mau members. They later kill Mugo.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 540
Mugo (MEW-goh), a farmer, reared by his drunken aunt. He has always felt himself to be an outsider. Naturally self-protective because he is alone in the world, he fears those involved in the revolutionary movement (Mau Mau) that seeks to overthrow the British rulers. He is especially envious of one of his peers, Kihika, who speaks in favor of independence. He also yearns to sacrifice himself for a larger purpose. When he intervenes to stop a pregnant woman from being beaten by a British policeman, he is imprisoned. His silence makes him appear mysterious, and rumors abound regarding his heroic defiance in jail. The villagers claim him as a local hero and are stunned when he finally admits having betrayed Kihika. Wambui and General R. execute him.
Karanja (kah-RAHN-jah), an opportunist and collaborator with the British. He works at the Githima Library and serves as a go-between for Mrs. Dickinson, the librarian and mistress of John Thompson. During the state of emergency, he works himself up to leader of the homeguards (who worked for the British) and is named chief of the village of Thabai. He becomes notorious for his cruelty. After independence, he flees.
Mumbi (MEWM-bee), one of the most beautiful women in the region, Kihika’s sister and wife of Gikonyo. During her husband’s six-year detention, she gives birth to Karanja’s son.
Gikonyo (gee-KOH-nyoh), a carpenter who achieves financial security by becoming a merchant. He and Karanja are rivals for Mumbi, who marries Gikonyo. He is not an enthusiastic follower of the movement, but he is arrested and imprisoned for six years. He becomes disillusioned, confesses, and is released. When he learns that Mumbi has been unfaithful, he loses all hope.
Kihika (kee-hee-kah), who acquired an interest in politics from listening as a child to Warui’s stories of British injustice. He left the Christian school when teachers spoke against Kenyan customs. After Jomo Kenyatta is arrested and a state of emergency is declared, he flees to the forest and joins the movement. He captures the Mahee police post and later assassinates District Officer Thomas Robson.
John Thompson, the administrative secretary who, with the country’s upcoming independence, is retiring to England. He first went to East Africa during World War II and was impressed by those Africans who appreciated ties with Great Britain. He had a promising career in civil service but never reached Nairobi because of an incident in Rira, in which he caused the beating deaths of eleven detainees. He felt more sympathy for his pets than he did for the Kenyans.
Wambui (wahm-BEW-ee) and
Warui (wah-REW-ee), an aging man and woman active in the movement from its inception. They suspect Karanja of having betrayed Kihika and plot his death. When independence comes, they suspect that very little has really changed.
Gitogo (gee-TOH-goh), a deaf and mute young man who faithfully supports his old mother. The British mistake him for a Mau Mau sympathizer and shoot him in the back.
General R., a tailor, a no-nonsense man of action in the movement. No one knows his real name, but the second R stands for Russia. He and Lieutenant Koina kill Mugo.