Skip to main content

Summary & Analysis of the Novel: 'Weep Not, Child'

Excited at the opportunity of going to school, Njoroge is filled with untold excitement of a brighter future. However, the turn of events in his village impacts his education. An uprising against the White settlers, and the White loyalists, in Njoroge's village, and occuring in other parts of the country, had been set off. The Blacks had had enough of living as slaves on their own land.

Caught in a country struggling to free herself loose from her colonial power's grip, Njoroge, who had been forced to drop out of high school, is left to fend for his two mothers, following his father's death, and the arrestment of his three half-brothers.

Figuring everything about him has been turned to ashes, Njoroge becomes despondent. Leaving his mothers to stroll around in the village alone, he walks towards a familiar tree, a few metres away from home. He had purposed to end his life. In his pocket is a knotted rope that will act as a catalyst in ending his own life.

The title of the novel, 'Weep Not, Child,' is an encouragement from the author to the main character in the novel, Njoroge, not to despair following the turn of events that have turned his world upside down.

Weep Not, Child

Weep Not, Child

Part 1: The Waning Light

Chapter 1

Nyokabi calls her son, Njoroge. She asks him whether he'd like to go to school. Njoroge replies quietly he'd be delighted to. His mother reminds him that he'll forego lunch at school since they're poor. Also, she asks him whether he'll bring shame to the family by deciding one day not to continue schooling. Njoroge assures her he'll never bring shame to her.

Excited at the prospect of attending school, he breaks the news to his stepbrother, Kamau. He asks him to join him but Kamau refuses saying he'll not leave his apprenticeship in carpentry to go to school.

Chapter 2

On Monday, Njoroge meets with Mwihaki who takes him to school as she's also learning there. She is the daughter of Jacob who owns the land where Njoroge's family are living on a portion of it.

At school, he is bullied by the other pupils but Mwihaki brings a stop to it. Since her sister is a teacher at the school, the boys cease their bullying as they're afraid she might report them to her elder sister.

One day, after leaving school, Njoroge finds her mother shelling some caster oil seeds from their ponds. He offers to help her but her mother tells him to do his homework.

After completing the homework, he kneels down besides his mother to help her. He entreats his mother to tell him a story because they're told in class to narrate a story. She promises to tell him some of them in the evening, but first of all he's to convey to Kamau that his mother wants to see her.

He sees his brother before he reaches Nanga's compound. He asks him why he's been late to get home as they walk towards their home. Kamau complains about Nanga's insensitiveness by giving him menial jobs instead of training him the trade.

Chapter 3

Ngotho leaves early for work. As is his custom, he doesn't pass through the fields to Mr. Howlands farm. Instead, he walks along the road. He's troubled by the words that were uttered by his son, Boro, after narrating a story to the young men, including his sons, who had gathered in his hut.

He meets Mr. Howlands who had woken up early. They greet each other. Mr. Howlands, a British citizen, had purposed to settle in Kenya, away from the 'troubles' facing him in his birth country.

They walk around the farm, examining the plants, and where weeds had grown, they pull them out.

Ngotho, inwardly, asks himself when Mr. Howlands, and other settlers, will leave his country, so the blacks can tend their own lands. On the other hand, Mr. Howlands wonders who will tender his farm when he passes away. His son who was 'connected' to the farm was killed in the Second World War while in the line of duty as a soldier. The last born, Stephen, isn't drawn to the farm.

Chapter 4

In the evening, after school, Mwihaki asks Njoroge why he keeps to himself. Is he avoiding her? Njoroge had purposed to stay away from Mwihaki when his mother found them playing on a hill.

He offers an excuse before she asks him whether his parents beat him. He answers only when he does wrong. He asks if her parents beat her. She says sometimes, but if her mother doesn't beat her, she uses vulgar language on her which hurts her more than beating.

The following year, Njoroge is promoted to class 1.

Chapter 5

They stand on a hill, a few metres from their family's huts. The formation of the hill is a result of accumulation of trash.

Scroll to Continue

Kamau discloses to Njoroge that he also longs to leave the village like their brothers, Boro and Kori, who are in the city, Nairobi.

They hear Kamau's mother, Njeri, calling them. As they descend the hill, Njoroge remembers something. The land. He asks Kamau whether it is true the lands possessed by the whites belong to the blacks.

Chapter 6

The elders of the village always visited Ngotho's father to talk on different matters affecting their village. On this particular day, Kori and Boro have come with other young men. Together with the elders, they discuss on sensitive issues affecting them, and their nation.

The men talk about the War they'd fought in, the foreign lands they'd been to, their country, their stolen lands, and the high rate of unemployment in the country. They also talk about the strike.

Mr. Howlands calls his men, and warns them against going on strike. If anyone does, he'll lose his job.

Njoroge finds his mother, Nyokabi, crying after coming from school. His father, standing in front of her insists he'll join others in the strike. Nyokabi pleads with him not to join others in striking. If the strike fails, he'll lose his job. Ngotho, in a commanding voice, says he won't take orders from a woman. Unable to endure his wife's insistence to reconsider his decision to strike, he slaps her.

He raises his hand to beat her but is stopped by Njoroge who runs forward, beseeching his father not to beat her. His father turns and looks at him. He grabs him on the shoulder, utters indiscernible words, then leaves.

Chapter 7

The following year, Njoroge, and other students, are anxious to know if they'd passed the previous year's exams. In the evening, Njoroge and Mwihaki walk to their homes, holding each other's hands; excited they'd excelled.

Mwihaki, the first to reach her home is met with a different atmosphere in the house. Her mother is crying. Sobbing, her mother laments she'd told Jacob not to go but he went ahead. She fears her husband is dead. Mwihaki asks, "Is he dead?" None in the room answers her.

Meanwhile, Njoroge reaches home to a crowd that had gathered in his father's compound. Some were turned towards the marketplace while others towards his father's hut.

Njoroge learns from Kamau the strike had turned out ugly. Two people were killed. Their father was severely injured.

Centro Botín "white power in black face"

Centro Botín "white power in black face"

Part 2: Darkness Fails

Chapter 8

Two years following the strike, Jacob is appointed as a Chief, and Mr. Howlands, a District Officer (D.O.).

In relation to the strike, Jacob throws Ngotho and his family out of his land. However, Nganga gives them a part of his land to settle.

Coming from school, Njoroge doesn't see anyone in the courtyard. That's weird. He hears voices in Njeri's hut. He enters the hut.

Therein, he sees his father, her mother, and her elder brothers, Kamau and Boro. They're all anxious to know from Boro about Kori. Some minutes later, Kori enters the hut, weary. He asks for food and water. Afterwards, he narrates how he escaped from the police who had bundled them in a lorry to an unknown destination. Boro had run away after they had been taken to the field before the rest were packed into the lorry.

Chapter 9

The people of the country are anxious about their imprisoned leader, Jomo, who has been charged in court. They hope he will be released as they've put their hope in him to liberate them from their colonialist. Unfortunately, he loses the case against him, by the colonialist, and is taken back to detention.

Ngotho's family have gathered in Njeri's hut. They're talking about Jomo's case, and why he hasn't won it.

Ngotho is consumed in his thoughts. He too had placed his hopes in Jomo after he's set free. What about his children? Has he failed them? Do they think, especially Boro, that he'd failed them? What will he do to save face? Boro wants him to join the Mau Mau fighters. He has no problem with it. But, he can't take an order from his child. It'll undermine his status as a father in the family.

Chapter 10

Jacob, the newly appointed chief, knocks Howlands' office door. Gun in hand, he enters. He tells Howlands they should do something about Ngotho's sons because they've been away to the city for a long time, and he is suspicious of Ngotho's eldest son, Boro. If they remove his sons from the village by taking them to detention camps, they will watch Ngotho's movement with ease. Howlands tells him he should do what he can to arrest them even if it involves implementing a curfew.

Ngotho is with his second wife, Nyokabi, and Njoroge, in her hut. In the other hut, Njeri, his first wife, is with her child, Kori. Her youngest son, Kamau, preferred to stay in the African market where he feels safer than at home.

Everyone is required to be in their house by six in the evening. Boro, Njeri's other son hasn't arrived. Worried, Njeri and Kori go out in the night to look for him. Before they've gone far, they hear a commanding voice to stop where they're.

Ngotho and Nyokabi peer through the door. With a heaviness of heart, Ngotho goes back to his stool. Nyokabi, who returns seconds later, tells Njoroge they've taken Njeri and Kori away.

Boro arrives. Sensing there must be something wrong, he asks them. His father tells him. Boro, angry, asks his father why he hasn't done anything about it. Ngotho tries to offer an explanation, but Boro doesn't want to hear of it. He leaves.

In the evening of the following day, Njoroge tells his mother about a notice they saw on a wall. It warned the headmaster and the children if they continued going to school, they'll be beheaded. His mother tells him he'll not go to school anymore. However, Kamau urges him not to leave school. The notice, signed under Kimathi's name, might not be genuine. And, there's nowhere safe to stay. Njoroge purposes he'll not quit going to school.

Njeri, Ngotho's first wife, is released. Kori will be sent to a detention camp.

Chapter 11

The situation in the country is deteriorating. Many people are taken to forests where they're killed by European soldiers who falsely boast they've killed Mau Mau fighters (who under an oath are fighting against Europeans to leave their land).

On a Saturday, Njoroge visits Kamau at his workplace in the African market (where African shops are lined in one section of Kipanga town). Njoroge enquires why there is an uneasy calmness in the town. Kamau reveals to him that the murdered bodies of Nganga and a barber, and four others, had been found in the forest.

Three days later, Njoroge hears a voice calling him as he heads home from the marketplace. It is Mwihaki. They talk for some time. She reveals to him she is lonely as people avoid her (the reason being her father is a Chief thereby he's betrayed his people by siding with the whites). Njoroge pities her. He tells her they should meet close to his home so they can go together to church.

In the evening, after they leave the church, they walk on an old path. Mwihaki asks him to go with her to their home. Njoroge protests against it, but finally agrees. She goes to the kitchen while he looks at the portraits hanged on the wall.

He hears sounds of feet at the door. He rushes to sit on a chair. Fear gripping his heart, he seats on the edge of the chair. Jacob, his wife, and three homeguards enter.

Afterwards, they go to a hill. Mwihaki asks him to promise her he will see her when she gets back from school.

Chapter 12

Howlands asks Jacob whether he's certain Boro is leading the gang that is in the same fashion of Mau Mau fighters. Jacob hands him a note he found at the foot of the door of his home in an envelope. It reads, "STOP YOUR MURDERING ACTIVITIES. OR ELSE WE SHALL COME FOR YOUR HEAD. THIS IS OUR LAST WARNING. He reveals he's received another of the same kind. Howlands is furious that he's kept quiet about it. He tells him if he needs more homeguards, he can have them.

Njoroge and a young man are in the lead of a procession. Behind them are women and some men, including the young men's teacher, Isaka. They're holding a Bible and a hymn book; heading to a wooded area near a hill for spiritual worship. It's on the morning of January.

Njoroge, and the other young man, hear a voice commanding them to stop. They stop. In front of them is a white military officer with a pistol pointed towards them. He orders them to raise their hands, move forward, get on their knees, and produce identifying documents. Unlike the men, the women are allowed to go.

Njoroge and the young man, Mucatha, produce letters written by their former headmaster which identifies them as pupils. The other men are not lucky. One of them is beaten until he urinates on himself.

Isaka, squatting, watches the unfolding event before him in a calmly state. He is asked for his documents. He replies he didn't carry them. Is he a Mau Mau fighter? No. He's a follower of Jesus. He's taken to a wooded area where he's tortured, and killed.

Boro is sitting with his lieutenant in a new hideout. Boro, the leader of a group of freedom fighters, tells his lieutenant he'll personally kill Jacob because he hasn't headed the group's warning.

Chapter 13

Njoroge is the only boy in his village who has gained recommendal marks to join high school. Mwihaki too has passed but her marks haven't reached the required score to join high school. Instead, she'll be enrolled in a teachers' training institution that's close to her school.

Chapter 14

Njoroge joins Siriana Secondary School. At the school, he discovers a reality that he didn't know existed. He'll be taught by white teachers. They are good to him which baffles him. He also meets other boys from different tribes. He realizes he can be angry at them similar to the boys in his village.

The school takes part in interschool sports competitions. On this particular day, Siriana's football team will be playing against Hill's School. Hill School admits European students only.

As a spectator, he comes across another spectator from Hills School. It happens to be Stephen, the last-born son of Mr. Howlands. They talk for some time. Stephen reveals to Njoroge that he'd longed to speak to him while he's young but feared him. Njoroge discloses to him that he too feared to talk to him. He tells Njoroge that he and his mother will go back to their parents' country of birth (but he doesn't want to go there).

Chapter 15

On the third term of his first year in high school, Njoroge is called to the headmaster's office. The headteacher consoles and encourages him without giving him the reason for his actions.

Filled with apprehension, he is taken into a car by two police officers. In a particular homeguard post, Njoroge is questioned in connection with the killing of Jacob. Who killed him? Where is Boro? He's beaten whenever he gives an unexpected answer. The next day, he's taken to the same room where he's interrogated, and tortured.

On the third day, he's released together with his mother.

Ngotho, not knowing where he's gained the courage, walks towards the DO's office. He presents himself as Jacob's killer. He's tortured for several days to reveal the real killer, but he insists he is the actual killer.

Chapter 16

Nyokabi and Njeri are sitting in a corner of Nyokabi's hut, tears streaming from their eyes. Ngotho, struggling to lie on one side, opens his eyes. His two wives move nearer to the bed where Ngotho is lying. He looks at each of his two wives before his eyes rest on Njoroge.

Later, Boro enters the hut. He kneels besides the bed, and asks for forgiveness from his father. His father asks him to stay but he replies he can't. He stands up and whispers that he should have arrived earlier.

He exits. Njoroge and the two women turn their heads to look at Ngotho. He had passed away.

Chapter 17

Njoroge is working for an Indian man. The lack of school fees, and the needs at home, has forced him to look for a job. Nonetheless, in less than a month, Njoroge is chased from his job.

Chapter 18

Mwihaki stands from where she's sitting - outside her new home in the homeguard post - and goes behind the house. She takes out a small note, and reads it. She'd pledged to herself she wouldn't want to see Njoroge after learning his family killed her father.

They meet, and Njoroge asks for forgiveness for the murder of her father that's committed by one of the members of his family. Mwihaki develops a different thought from the one she'd held of Njoroge. She tells him, "I'm sorry for having thought ill of you."

Njoroge wants her to go with him to Uganda or another country to escape the problems prevalent in their village, and the country. Mwihaki tells him they've responsibilities to take care of e.g. taking care of her mother, and they should wait until their country gains independence. She stands, and leaves him; weeping on her way to home.

The following day, Njoroge leaves her mothers. He wants to roam in the village on his own. Her mother doesn't ask him where he's going.

He walks on a path that leads to a big and broad road. He thinks of his family. His father is dead. Boro will be executed in a few days. Kamau will be imprisoned for life. The two are charged for killing Jacob and Howlands. He doesn't know what will happen to Kori.

He follows the road until he arrives at the plain where he last spoke to Mwihaki. He has come to that place many times.

He sits on a rock, takes out a rope he'd knotted. He holds it with pleasure, waiting for the darkness to engulf the region.

He stands before the tree, and puts the knotted rope on one of the branches of the tree.

He hears his mother calling him. At the second mention of his name, he responds. His mother clungs to him. She doesn't ask him anything. They walk back home in silence.

He feels guilty as he contemplates how he's let down his father who, before his death, asked him to take care of her mother, Nyokabi, and stepmom, Njeri. He also feels guilty for failing his mother, and Mwihaki who had asked him to wait for the new day.

They meet Njeri who was following Nyokabi in search of Njoroge.


1. War

Why would the whites drag Africans in fighting a war that didn't concern them? More so, why would the whites fight against each other? Why would they kill each other using guns, and mass destructive weapons? These are some of the questions that puzzled Mahua villagers.

The author points a depressing image of the British invading Kenya, ruling over them, and forcing them to fight alongside them in both the World War I and II.

The War, Ngotho remembered his son saying while walking towards Howlands farm, had led to senseless deaths. It was a terrible waste of lives. Many whites including blacks died in both wars, including Mwangi, Njoroge's brother.

Those who returned, exhausted physically and mentally, were met with shock at the turn of events in their country. Their lands had been grabbed, and finding employment was difficult. Ngotho's father, and others, had been forcefully removed from their ancestral home while he's at the battleground. His father's land was passed to another person before it was sold to Jacob. Ngotho and his family were living in a portion of Jacob's land as if it's not legally theirs.

Boro asked, after listening to Ngotho's recount of the dispossession of their land after returning from the War, "For whom or for what had 'Mwangi' died of?" It's a pointless fight, and Mwangi's death was in vain. As Boro found out, having been lucky of not dying in the World War II, fighting in the War was futile. What he, and other Blacks fought for, alongside the Brits, wasn't realized. Other than their people liberated from the chains of colonialism, they'd become slaves on their own land; their land having been grabbed off from them.

Mr. Howlands had escaped from his native Country, England. He had joined the First War. Yearning for peace, he made Kenya his home. His first son was killed in the Second War after he had sent him and his daughter to study in his home country.

War brings with it all kinds of mental and psychological sufferings, loss of lives, lack of peace; indirectly affecting those not involved in war; forcing those not involved in war being involved in it; and affecting the economy of a society, or country.

Belgian Congo in World War II

Belgian Congo in World War II

2. Rite of Passage

Circumcision is one of the rite of passage practiced in Njoroge's village. Rite of passage as defined by Your Dictionary is "a ritual or ceremony signifying an event in a person's life indicative of a transition from one stage to another, as from adolescence to adulthood."

In pre-colonial Africa, both boys and girls were circumcised. Female circumcision, known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was highly discouraged by the British colonialist, and missionaries, owing to the effects of the practice e.g. excessive bleeding, death, and difficulty giving birth. As a result, Africa witnessed a decrease in female circumcision.

Boys and girls ceased to be referred as such when they underwent this right passage. They became adults, and as a result, they no longer associated themselves with the uncircumcised.

Njoroge longed for they day he would become a man "for then he would have the freedom to sit with big circumcised girls and touch them as he saw the young men do."

3. Polygamy

Ngotho had two wives, Njeri and Nyokabi. Both of the wives lived in the same compound as was typical in pre-colonial Africa era.

He treates his wives with equal treatment e.g. buying the same weight of beef. He showed no favourism to one wife against the other one.

Despite the fact Ngotho's wives "liked each other and were good companions and friends," Ngotho learned he could never trust them. Out of jealousy, they could turn his homestead into a war zone.

Sometimes, Ngotho would beat the women to settle the differences between them. Even though he never beat them much, he learned, "When a woman was angry, no amount of beating would pacify her.

4. Suicide

Following his father's death, an inner voice kept telling him to end his own life. He fought against the voice for some time before he gave in to the voice, and prepared a rope which he would use to end his own life.

His suicidal feelings were elicited, and deepened, by a number of causes. His father's death was among the unpleasant events that amplified his suicidal thoughts.

When he was about to commit suicide, he heard his mother's voice calling him. His mother had gotten worried his son hadn't arrived home. She set about to look for him. His mother's voice halted his attempt to end his own life.

He blamed himself for escaping his responsibility of taking care of his mothers as his father promised him. When nearing home, the inner voice asked him why he didn't do it? It told him it's a coward. Njoroge agreed he was a coward as he ran to open door for his mothers.

It's expected Njoroge would not give in again to the suicidal feelings as he had a responsibility of taking care of his mothers, and should wait for a new day as encouraged by Mwihaki (since there was every indication their country was nearing to gaining the status of an independent, or sovereign, country).

Related Articles