Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 627
Kiguunda (kee-gew-EWN -dah), a farm laborer and smallholder of one and one-half acres in postcolonial Kenya. Although his efforts as a Mau Mau guerrilla on behalf of independence have been followed by a life of labor and hardship, he is a proud man. When his employer, Kioi, and...
(The entire section contains 627 words.)
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- Critical Essays
Kiguunda (kee-gew-EWN-dah), a farm laborer and smallholder of one and one-half acres in postcolonial Kenya. Although his efforts as a Mau Mau guerrilla on behalf of independence have been followed by a life of labor and hardship, he is a proud man. When his employer, Kioi, and others visit him in his one-room, mud-walled home to convert him to Christianity and insist that he “marry” his wife of many years, he takes his sword from the wall and drives them out. Later, believing that their motive was to legitimize a marriage between his daughter Gathoni and their son, he repents, offers to undertake the ceremony, and puts up his small-holding to secure a bank loan that will cover the large expenses of a Christian wedding. After Gathoni is made pregnant and discarded by Kioi’s son, Kiguunda again threatens Kioi. Subsequently, he loses his job and his smallholding. He becomes an abusive drunk until his friend and neighbor recalls him to a fervent belief in overthrowing the tyranny of the rich.
Gicaamba (gee-kah-AHM-bah), a factory worker and neighbor and friend of Kiguunda. Gicaamba’s proletarian distrust of the native rich, their foreign investors, and the oppressive use both make of Christianity helps at first to keep Kiguunda’s own skepticism alive. After Kiguunda is ruined, Gicaamba’s militant call to class action revives the broken man’s spirit.
Ahab Kioi wa Kanoru
Ahab Kioi wa Kanoru (AY-hahb kee-OH-ee wah kah-NOH-rew), a wealthy farmer and entrepreneur with foreign and domestic business contacts. He wishes to convert Kiguunda, who is a natural leader of the farmworkers, to Christianity, as a first step toward using him to keep the other workers productive and docile. When Kiguunda must default on his loan, Kioi acquires his smallholding for a foreign consortium. The land will be used for a factory that will produce toxic and noxious chemicals.
Wangeci (wahn-GAY-see), Kiguunda’s wife. She resents their poverty, noting that those who did not wage war against the British have emerged from that period with property and wealth. She also presses Kiguunda to convert for the sake of their daughter’s future. She deplores Gathoni’s vanity and love of extravagant clothes but does not reject Gathoni when she hears of Gathoni’s pregnancy. She quarrels with her husband when he begins drinking but joins him at the end in a song predicting the victory of the workers over their exploiters.
Samuel Ndugire (ihn-dew-GEE-ray), a nouveau riche tea farmer and shopkeeper, as well as a friend of Kioi. He and his wife accompany Kioi and his wife in their attempt to convert Kiguunda to Christianity. He reflects and embellishes Kioi’s contemptuous opinions of workers.
Gathoni (gah-DHOH-nee), the daughter of Kiguunda and Wangeci. She is swept off her feet by Kioi’s son, who lavishes presents on her. Her pregnancy causes him to jilt her. She becomes a barmaid in a disreputable establishment after Kiguunda throws her out.
Njooki (ihn-joh-OH-kee), Gicaamba’s wife. She is nearly as voluble as her husband in her condemnation of the rich, of foreigners, and of Christianity. She tries to warn Kiguunda and Wangeci against Kioi.
Jezebel, Kioi’s wife. She is a stern and devout Christian by her own measure; that is, she presumes that God has rewarded her and her family and that those less fortunate have a duty to bear their lot in silence. She, like Kioi, believes that the millions of people who have never heard of Christ will burn forever in hell.
Ikuua wa Nditika
Ikuua wa Nditika (ih-KEW-ew-ah wah ihn-dee-TEE-kah), Kioi’s business partner. He is aggressively nonconformist and non-Christian. He shocks Kioi’s wife with his predilection for alcoholic drinks and continued practice of polygamy.