The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
“Christian missionaries attempt to outlaw the female circumcision ritual and in the process create a terrible rift between the two Kikuyu communities on either side of the river”.
The River Between is the story of the division of two cultures in a community after the white man has introduced Christianity to Africa. It has a socio-cultural angle and it is interesting to see an insight of the history of Africa – before with the traditional structure of the tribes and after Christianity’s invasion in the country. It shows a classic culture clash between myths, traditions and pride vs. Christianity and the white man’s footsteps that sound so violently on the ground. The story shows the confusion and all of the changes that has created a division between two groups. An ethical dilemma concerning a girl’s circumcision starts an avalanche of problems and self-reflecting thoughts. It emphasizes the struggle between two communities, rather than the problem of colonization.
Things such as family relation, tradition, pride and the strong African culture divide the Christian Kenyans from the traditional ones.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o does an excellent job describing this confusion and ruin of the society. Through the entire novel, the title “The River Between” perfectly symbolizes the ridge between the two communities and the things that keep tearing them apart. Another thing is the moon; symbolizing the white man and colonization that keep on creating a wider ridge between the people.
“The moon was also awake. Her glare was hard and looked brittle. The whole ridge and everything wore a brilliant white”.
I have always been a fan of symbolism and there is a lot of it in this novel, so it was a pleasure reading it. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a talented author and writer – he tells the story so vividly; describing sounds, colours, smells and natural surroundings, so it’s as if you were there yourself.
“’It is bad. It is bad,’ Kinuthia. ‘I say the white man should go, go back to wherever he came from and leave us till our in peace’. The rest was drowned by the falling rain”.
Last of all, I like the idea of star-crossed lovers (the classical Romeo & Juliet-situation), where two people from two different cultures or communities try to pursue their happiness – together. In my mind, you could Wayaki and Nyambura “soldiers of love”.
“Something passed between them as two human beings, untainted with religion, social conventions or any tradition”
I was so happy that I had to read this book for a university course! Now I only want to read more of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’os literary works. It was interesting, extremely well-written and had beautiful characterizations of the characters of the story. It shows a socio-cultural insight of a historical time in Africa with colonization and which impact it had.
I was very moved while reading this novel. It is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. Afterwards, I felt that something left me and it left me with a simple and heartbreaking feeling of goodbye.