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...
(The entire section is 627 words.)