“Weep Not, Child” is the first major novel published in English by the East African author Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, whose original name is James Thiong’o Ngugi and is from Kenya.
In the book, Ngugi deals with the Mau Mau uprising and Kenyans’ lives, including how they suffered during the period of their slavery. This was the time when Kenya was a British colony.
Colonialist authorities took away the land of Kenyans and forced them to work for them and live their lives the way colonisers wanted. There were plenty laws that were against black people in Kenya. The British wanted to form British-style educational systems to control their mindset and kept their minds away from thinking about nationalism, slavery, dignity, national identity and freedom. The British divided Kenyans on the basis of class, ethnicity, and education to turn them against each other. Africans struggled and strived to stop slavery and kept the control of their own land. They made organisations like Mau Mau.
Mau Mau was a secret nationalist organisation that strived for the Kenyan people and their independence. It has attacked and killed many enemies. The brave comrades of Mau Mau struggled and sacrificed their lives to free their land from the British.
K.A.U,., the Kenyan African Union (Resistance Movement), was organised by black Kenyan leaders in 1944. K.A.U. wanted to stop the dominance of the British colonial government and their ruling systems and wanted to remove the color bar so that black people got equal rights as white people did. But K.A.U. was banned and many of its members were killed and imprisoned.
This book begins with Njoroge, who is the youngest son of Ngotho. Ngotho is the head of the family. He works as a laborer, and he has two wives, Njeri and Nyokabi. Njeri is the first wife, who is the elder one, and Nyokabi is the second wife. From Nyokabi, he has two children (Mwangi and Njoroge), while from Njeri, he has three children (Boro, Kori, and Kamau). Boro was a soldier in the Second World War; Kori works at the Green Hotel; and Kamau learns to be a carpenter. Mwangi was killed in the Second World War, so Njoroge remains the only son of Nyokabi.
Njoroge is the first one in his family to attend school. His family lives on the land of Jacobo. Jacobo is the right hand of Howlands. He supports the British so that he can keep his land and stay wealthy. Howlands is a white man who is the owner of that land, which once belonged to Ngotho’s father. He uses Jacobo to fight against black people and to keep his ruling on their lands.
One day, black people held a strike to demand their rights. Ngotho wants to participate, but he is unsure whether to go or not because he is afraid of losing his job. But he decides to go in protest. The white police bring Jacobo in order to put an end to their strike, just right after they start protesting. Ngotho attacks Jacobo, but he survives and swears to take revenge on him. Ngotho loses his job, and their family is not allowed to live there any more. They force them to leave the land.
After that, Njoroge switches to another school. Mwihaki, Jacobo’s daughter, is the best friend of Njoroge. They were reading at the same school. After this, they fall apart, and Njoroge is not able to talk to her any more, just because of embarrassment over what his father did to Jacobo.
Furthermore, Jacobo and Howlands fight against the resistance of the Mau Mau. Jacobo accuses Ngotho of being the leader of the Mau Mau and tries to put an end to him and destroy his family.
After some time, Jacobo gets murdered in his office by Mau Mau. Howlands brutally beats both son and father, and he removes Njoroge from school for questioning. However, there is no connection between Ngotho and Njoroge toward Jacobo’s death. Actually, Njoroge’s brother has done this assassination. Boro is the real leader of the Mau Mau. Kamau has been imprisoned for life. Njoroge’s family gets destroyed. He becomes so afraid and loses hope about everything that he ends up having suicidal thoughts, so he decides not to live anymore. He attempts suicide, but his mother finds him just right before he commits suicide, so he fails.
After reading that novel, I feel like people who live in colonised land suffer an extreme level of cruelty. That is what makes them commit suicide. Occupiers make them feel that nothing remains for them except the path of suicide or giving up. Such brutality and harsh acts by colonial rulers make oppressed people victims of anxiety, depression and a bunch of other mental disorders. That’s how colonialists act like.