Last Updated September 6, 2023.
Kiguunda owns a small plot of land but also depends on the income from working for Ahab Kioi wa Kanoru. He is proud of his achievements and of his service in the Kenyan independence movement (Mau Mau). Much of the plot centers on Kioi’s efforts to bring Kiguunda to Christianity—which involves incurring expenses for his daughter’s fancy wedding to Kioi’s son, later called off, and attempting to convince Kiguunda and Wangeci to be baptized and have a church wedding. Kiguunda gradually realizes that Kioi’s ulterior motives include taking his one-and-a-half acres of property and using him to suppress worker unrest. After he loses both the land and his job, he drowns his sorrows in alcohol until Gicaamba recruits him for the workers’ struggle.
Wangeci, Kiguunda’s wife, hopes for solutions to their poverty; the two live together with their daughter, Gathoni, in a one-room house with mud walls. Her contradictory feelings of envy and disdain for others’ post-independence prosperity fuel her interest in Christianity, which she appreciates largely for the social benefits it imparts. In the end, she supports the workers. When Gathoni gets pregnant after sleeping with Muhuuni, Wangeci sides with Gathoni against Kiguunda.
Kiguunda’s friend and neighbor Gicaamba, a laborer in a factory, is a champion of workers’ rights. His leftist rejection of Christianity stems from mistrusting its role in foreign oppression. Gicaamba’s infectious activism brings Kiguunda into the fold.
Njooki, Gicaamba’s wife, a staunch advocate of the workers, also mistrusts Christians—especially Kioi.
Ahab Kioi wa Kanoru
Ahab Kioi wa Kanoru, a wealthy man who has parlayed his landholdings into a successful commercial network, represents the negative influences of globalization that came after Kenyan independence. His efforts to manipulate Kiguunda and thus control his workers center on converting Kiguunda to Christianity. He also cheats Kiguunda out of his land so he can build a toxic chemical plant on it.
Jezebel is married to Kioi. A devout Christian and zealous evangelist, she interprets religion as a yardstick of social and financial superiority more than as a matter of faith. Along with her husband, she believes that those who haven’t converted to Christianity will go to hell for their sins.
Samuel Ndugire, Kioi’s friend, is a Christian who has become successful as a tea farmer and shopkeeper. Siding with Kioi against the workers, Samuel and his wife, Helen, support Kioi's efforts to convert and co-opt Kiguunda.
Gathoni, Kiguunda’s and Wangeci’s daughter, falls in love with Muhuuni, Kioi’s son, who showers her with gifts. Kiguunda and Wangeci complain that Gathoni has become “modern” since she and Muhuuni began their relationship. After the two young people have sex and Gathoni gets pregnant, Muhuuni breaks up with her. Her mother takes her side, but father throws her out of the house, and she takes a job at a seedy bar.
Ikuua wa Nditika
Ikuua wa Nditika, Kioi’s business partner, is non-Christian and continues to practice polygamy. This, along with his penchant for drinking, shocks Kioi’s wife.