60 pages 2 hours read

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

The River Between

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1965

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Character Analysis


Waiyaki is the male protagonist of the novel, and much of the plot is presented from his point of view. He is characterized by his unique eyes, his leadership qualities, and his strength. Although his father, Chege, deems him the savior of the Gikuyu lands, Waiyaki suffers from intense internal confusion and conflict, often wondering if his father’s prophecy is true. These feelings become more pronounced throughout his transition into adulthood, especially amidst the escalation of conflict in the region due to the arrival of Christian Europeans. Guilt and betrayal haunt him as he tries to define himself authentically despite the daunting burden of his father’s prophecy.

Waiyaki is portrayed as lonely and uncertain, often doubting and second-guessing the nature of his social role. He often finds solace in the idea of education as a tool to bolster the Gikuyu tribes and to preserve the community from the influences of colonization. However, his steadfast belief in education borders on religious zealotry and is ultimately insufficient to meet the complex social needs of his tribe during this time of great cultural change. His love for Muthoni and Nyambura are sources of certainty and self-actualization that allow him to transcend the boundaries of culture, prophecy, and colonialism.