Skip to main content

A Review of Devil on the Cross: Political Satire

Peace is a high school- level educator and a writer that is dedicated to creating engaging contents for online platforms.


A revolutionary writer exposes the ills in the society and tries to proffer solutions to them in their writing.

Ngugi wa Thiong'o is one of such writers whose work progresses from one stage to another. It is a momentous movement, that is supposed to yield benefit to the people.Ngugi's novel, Devil on the Cross reflects an era of irresponsible government.



Ngugi wa Thiong'o born on the 5th of January, 1938 is a Kenyan writer, academic, and social activist. He lived his early life in Kenyan during the colonial era. His father was a laborer for a wealthy African and had married four wives with about 20 children. Ngugi's mother, though an illiterate, was dedicated to his education. Kenya's mau mau protest began against colonial rule. Many of Ngugi's family members were part of the protest which resulted in his parents' arrest and the death of his step brother.

As the protest continued violently, Ngũgĩ left for Uganda in 1958 to continue his education at Makerere College. There, Ngũgĩ had a relationship with Nyambura, married her and they had five children. After Kenya gained its independence in 1963, Ngugi worked as a journalist before he moved to Leeds university, England. While there, in 1964, he published Weep Not, Child which made him the First East African to publish anicel in English. After which he published The River Between.

He published A Grain of Wheat in 1967 by the time had already returned to Kenyan lecture at the University of Nairobi in the English and literature department. He resigned from the University of Nairobi in 1969 and returned as the departmental head in 1972-1977 when he published Petals of Blood. In 1976, Ngugi and Micere Githae Mugi wrote the play The Trial of Dedan Kimathi which reveals how the British state killed Kimathi in 1957 Mau-mau freedom fight.

in 1977, Ngugi co-authored, I Will Marry When I Want. Which was acted in a theatre. It also centered on Kenyan's exploitation. The controversy raised by the okay got Ngugi arrested and detained. While still in prison, he wrote Devil on the Cross published in 1980 and translated to English in 1982. In 1978 Ngugi was released but was unable to get a Job. He then moved to England after he learned of a conspiracy by Daniel Arap Moi to assassinate him. Her returned to Kenyan with his family in 2004 and wrote other books which includes:

Wizard of the Crow, published in 2006.

Dreams in a Time of War published in 2010.

In the House of the Interpreter published in 2012.

Wrestling with the Devil published in 2018.


Devil on the cross is a very symbolic novel that cuts across the historical glimpse of the pastoral novel of Kenya. Colonialism in Kenya widened the gap between the native and white settlers. In independent Kenya, the lands we're not given to those native owners. In this novel, Ngugi strengthens his view in imperialism. There was a competition in that cave to bring out the best thief in Kenya. Devil in the cross is an ideological statement. The neo-colonial exploiter is the Devil, that is what the author is trying to satirize. The Devil is an exploration of all corrupt persons that cuts across the politicians, desperados, businessmen and all those that uphold imperialism in modern Kenya. Human eaters and blood suckers are the set of thieves that came for the contest. The novel has a linear plot . The image of the police in this novel is ill, they conspire with the ruling class to dehumanize the peasants in the society. Gicaanndi player, is not a character in this novel, he is the narrator of the novels and tells the pathetic story of Kenya. The text exposes Kenya"s culture, history, religion and tradition.

Another aspect of Ngugi explores is the gender discrimination in post-colonial Kenya which is shown through the characters of Wariinga and wangari as they are sexualized and asked to sell their body for money instead of getting real jobs. Foreshadowing is one of the narrative techniques used in making the novel a success. The author makes use of Christian anecdote and Biblical terms.It was originally written in Buntu, before it was translated into English language.



Jacinta Wariinga was saddled with tales of bitterness. From her uncle who introduced her to an old rich man from Ngorika for his selfish interest in her getting pregnant for the old man and being abandoned. She had the baby and her parents took care of her. Due to her determination to go to school, she finishes her secondary education and secretarial studies and searches in vain for a job. All her employers want to sleep with her including Boss Kahari who is a church leader. He said that " the laps of women are the table on which contract papers are signed". Waringa refuses his advances and he fires her. She wandered into a shop and found a black man , then she thought her days of joblessness were over but the black man said that the only Job he could offer was that of spreading her legs' '. However, misfortune and trouble had trailed Waringa long before she left Nairobi, where she worked as a secretary ( typing and shorthand) at a construction company. She was dismissed on Friday morning for rejecting the advances of Boss Kihara , her employer who was the managing director of the firm. That same evening, Wariinga was abandoned by her sweetheart, John Kimwana after he had accused her of being Boss Kihara's mistress. On Saturday morning, Wariinga was visited by her landlord, the owner of a house where she rented a room. She was ejected out of the house because she refused to pay more for a house that looked like a "bird's nest". That landlord came with three thugs wearing dark sunglasses. They threaten to kill her if she reports the matter to the police. Wariinga was convinced that her appearance was the root cause if all her problems. She bleaches her skin because she thinks he is too black. Although she is described as beautiful by the narrator, she is doubtful.

Scroll to Continue

On returning back to her parents at Ilmorog, she attempts to commit sucide at the bus stop by walking into a moving vehicle, but she is saved by a man. She narrates all her lifes struggles to him , he felt pity for her and invite her to the Devils feast assuring her that by attending, she will understand the reasons she was exploited. She isn't sure if she wants to go but she agrees anyway as it holding at Ilmorog where she is headed. In the matutu which she has boarded, driven by an effusuve man named Mwaura, she meets different people who tell their life story and their reasons for going Ilmorog. These people include: Muturi who is going to illmorog in search of a job after he was fired from his last job for going on strike and asking for an increase in his pay ( the same person fired Wariinga). Gatuiria, a civilized university student, who is studying music, he is on his way to the Devil's Feast to come to terms with folktales about the devil. Wanagri, a woman who had for Kenya at the time of the mau mau insurgency but she was arrested for wandering while job hunting in Nairobi and charged to court and accused of being a watchman for thieves. Mwireri wa Mukiraai is a businessman who believes that theft is what moves a country forward. While still on the journey, there were different discussions on the happenings in kenya despite having fought for the Independence and being led by their own people.

At the Feast, they all saw the bourgeoisie bragging about how they collect lands from the peasants and sell it back to them unknowingly- This was seen in the various testimonies of the thieves who tried to impress the foreigners and stand a chance of being crowned a winner. These thieves brag about how they have been exploiting the peasants ( sucking the blood of blood and selling of human flesh. Mwireri wa Mukiraai climbs the stage and suggests that all thieves and foreigners should be chased out of Ilmorog so they can have all the wealth for themselves but not everyone agrees and an argument ensues.

Wangari and Muturi led a protest with the peasants and called the police to arrest the thieves but she was arrested instead on the order of the bourgeoisie. Wariinga falls asleep on a tree; the Devil comes to her in her sleep and offers her a job of taking part in the exploitation, which she rejects and wakes up immediately. Labourers are brought by Muturi to stop the festival and Chase the thieves away. But they are attacked by the policemen.

Two years later, in Nairobi, Wariinga becomes a mechanical engineer and is set to marry Gatuiria who had also completed his musical composition about Kenyan's History and present it to his father, Nakuru. The couple set out to meet their respective parents and receive their blessings. They went to Wariinga's mother first and she gave her blessings. As they got to Gatuiria's home, Wariinga saw people who spoke at the feast and realised that her potential husband's family is part of the people is detests since the feast and she also uncovers that the Rich old man who had abandoned her when she fell pregnant for him, is Gatuiria father, Nakuru.

She tried to be calm but Nakuru went on to threaten her. Vowing to stop the system of oppression, she shoots him and some other guests. Gatuiria is appalled, not knowing what to do. The novel ends with Wariinga walking away from the scene.


The novel is set in Ilmorog, Nairobi and the cave where thieves held their Devil's feast in the postcolonial era of the 1980s.


The language used is simple. It blends with Buntu, the Kenyan indegineous language. The author, in trying to pass his message across, makes use of Biblical anecdote and allusions. For example, the parable of the master and sower, who is travelling , gave his servants five shillings, two shillings and one shilling and how they all turned out like events in the novel. If only they had all worked together, they will be able to prevent the foreign master's exploitation.

Ngugi makes use if Christian motifs/mythology: the story of the servants with different talent. The novel also consists of the use of songs-of victory, defeat, peasant, workers, love ,hope and unity.


The symbol of the devil's feast, the devil here represents blacks who loot their fellow black brothers who betray and sell their brothers. When the devil is hung on the cross, he still has followers.

© 2021 Peace Tobe Dike

Related Articles