Munira, the protagonist, carries the main thread of the narrative. Born to a wealthy family, his father a prominent landlord and his brother “a big man in an oil company,” Munira is obsessed with doing good. It is this motivation that brings him to the village of Ilmorog to start a school. He is described by Inspector Godfrey as “the odd man, the black sheep of an otherwise white family.” Munira is a complex character, and in his creation Ngugi has attempted to introduce a man of epic proportions, dramatizing many of the contradictions of Africa itself. He is a genuinely religious man, but his fervor spills over into fanaticism, leading to tragedy.
The other characters are not so fully developed. Abdulla, the shopkeeper and bar owner, is a former Mau-Mau resistance fighter, a forgotten hero. It appears that Ngugi sought to evoke a sense of pathos in the distance between Abdulla’s heroic past and his drab present, but the characterization is too sketchy, and it is impossible to take Abdulla seriously.
Karega is a stubborn young man. Munira takes to him right away and to some extent educates and awakens Karega’s potential for action. When Munira learns that his sister Mukami (now dead) and Karega were lovers, he is alienated from Karega, but he still wants to save him from Wanja.
Wanja is introduced as she lies in a state of delirium in the hospital, as a result of the fire which burned down her house. Her background is...
(The entire section is 555 words.)