In this novel, two brothers, Njoroge and Kamau, stand on a garbage heap and look into their futures: Njoroge is to attend school, while Kamau will train to be a carpenter. But this is Kenya, and the times are against them: In the forests, the Mau Mau is waging war against the white government, and the two brothers and their family need to decide where their loyalties lie.
For the practical Kamau, the choice is simple, but for Njoroge the scholar, the dream of progress through learning is a hard one to give up.
The first East African novel published in English, “Weep Not, Child” explores the effects of the infamous Mau Mau uprising on the lives of ordinary men and women, and on one family in particular.
Thiong’o’s works deal with the relationship between Africans and white settlers in colonial Kenya, and are heavily critical of colonial rule.
Specifically, “Weep Not, Child” deals with the Mau Mau Uprising, and “the bewildering dispossession of an entire people from their ancestral land.” Ngugi wrote the novel while he was a student at Makerere University.
The book is divided into two parts and eighteen chapters. Part one deals mostly with the education of Njoroge, while part two deals with the rising Mau Mau movement.
The novel explores the negative aspects of colonial rule over Kenya. Njoroge’s aspiration to attend university is frustrated by both the violence of the Mau Mau rebels and the violent response of the colonial government. This disappointment leads to his alienation from his family and ultimately his suicide attempt.