The Effects of Colonialism in The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Essay

The Effects of Colonialism in The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Essay

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In the novel The River between, Ngugi give a good account of the effects that colonialism had on the Kikuyu people. Ngugi goes on to demonstrate how the ideas of the modern Christian-European ways come into conflict with those of the traditional Kikuyu people and how for the Kikuyu, maintaining these traditions mean more than just following the path of their ancestors, but also about maintaining their identity as a people. Ngugi shows the complications and obstacles that arise when people on both sides fail to unit for a common cause and are unable to adapt and evolve their way of thinking to form a new way that benefits all.
Ngugi portrays the Kikuyu as a people torn between two worlds. On one hand they feel obligated to hold true to their traditions, customs, and way of life. On the other they have missionaries imposing a new belief on them, a belief that contradicts almost all they have held as being dear to them. This leads to a mixed reaction to colonialism, where one group embraces the change and the other meets it with fear and contempt. Ngugi sets the land scape of his story to reflect this, the Kameno and Makuyu ridges are separated by the Hanoi River. The river is in itself a metaphor for the issues that divide the Kikuyu people.
The two tribes are as different as night and day, the Christians who live in Makuyu follow their leader Joshua who is a person with a very limited view of Christianity. Ngugi describes Joshua as a “man with no roots” (Ngugi 141). Joshua represents the Kikuyu who have converted to Christianity; they are described as people who seem to suffer from an identity crisis. This is evident when Joshua’s daughter Muthoni decides to get circumcised against her fathers will. Muthoni is a Christ...


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...colonialism in Africa was to eradicate the identity of the African and replace it with a more European one. Doing this would make the African people easier to control and subjugate. This is detrimental to the identity of the African because it takes away their very foundation on which their idea of self is created and replaced it with something foreign and unfamiliar. Their foundation goes from a strong to one that is soft and weak which causes them to not know where they belong. Ngugi’s work shows that in order for the Kikuyu to survive and take back what is theirs, they cannot just cling to the old ways, yet they should not fully adopt and embrace the ways of the colonial powers. Instead they need to learn from the white man and adapt it to fit their own culture. They need to make a new hybrid system that combines the best of both worlds and empowers them.

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