Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Kenya. East African nation that became independent from the British Empire in 1963. While the novel embraces the whole nation of Kenya, from its “one horizon” touching the Indian Ocean to its “other,” touching the shores of the great Lake Victoria, it focuses on central Kenya’s Gikuyu (also known as Kikuyu) people, from whom British settlers took large tracts of the country’s best land for their own use. Indeed, land was central to the colonial conflict—to both the settler farmers and the agricultural Gikuyu. As a result, place in this novel is the object of struggle but also symbolic of the various betrayals that occur in the course of that struggle.


Rung’ei (roong-AY). Fictional town in which most of the novel’s action takes place that is modeled on Limuru, an important settlement twenty miles northwest of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Rung’ei stands on the edge of the so-called White Highlands, where European settlement was most dense. The Mombasa-Uganda railway line runs through the town, on its way from the coast to the interior. The railroad itself is at once an item of fascination for the villagers and an unavoidable symbol of the colonial presence. During Kenya’s independence day celebrations, a highly symbolic footrace—essentially a contest to win the heart of the new nation—takes place on Rung’ei’s main sports field.


Thabai (thah-BI). Gikuyu village near Rung’ei...

(The entire section is 615 words.)