I Will Marry When I Want

by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Ngugi wa Mirii

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 343

I Will Marry When I Want (originally published as Ngaahika Ndeenda) by Kenyan playwrights Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Ngugi wa Mirii examines the politics and society of postcolonial Kenya. The play was considered controversial upon publication and during its run on stage due to its political commentary, which irked the Kenyan government.

The play is told from the perspective of the common Kenyan citizen just after the country won its independence from British rule. Before the British ruled present-day Kenya, the territory was colonized by Portugal. The long history of imperialism in the country has deeply changed the social structure and collective psychology of the people.

This is what the play examines throughout its narrative. In particular, the play analyzes and criticizes neocolonialism, which is a form of imperialism that uses proxy strategies—such as pressuring the government with economic and political sanctions—to suppress development or manipulate the government. The leaders of the newly-independent nation use the same imperialist tactics employed by past foreign colonizers in order to oppress their own people. Bitter infighting and power struggles are the norm in the government, and the people of the country suffer from it.

The main conflict in the story, the competition among several actors to seize control of real estate from the locals, is a metaphor for the colonial mentality. Each antagonist has their own interests, all of which stem from greed and thirst for power. The farmer at the center of the story fights off proposals and schemes, and the play depicts the others as similar to jackals preying on a wounded animal. Ahab Kioi wa Kanoru is the representation of colonial greed and general immorality. Like past imperialists, he uses his connections and position of power to defraud the farmer in order to take the latter's property.

The then-current government and social elites in Kenya were enraged with the play on its performance, and the government shut down the play's run was shut down after just over a month. The playwrights were subsequently arrested, and they were forced into exile abroad.

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