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Thursday, April 21, 2011

"I Will Marry When I Want" Book Review

I will Marry When I Want is a famous play authored by Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Ngugi Wa Mirii. The setting of the story is in Africa, Kenya to be exact. It is a story of the Kenyan farmer named Kiguunda and his wife Wangenci. They also have a daughter named Gathoni. The daughter is mentioned to be quite pretty and physically appealing. The story dwells on the couples' story of how they protected their land from a group of people who wanted to buy it and make an insecticide factory on it.

The family struggles on how they could survive and meet their daily needs. This family share a house that only has one room with less furnishings.It was also described that the daughter sleeps on the floor which serves as her bed and use the rags they have in the house as her beddings. So, this gives a picture that the family has little means and are very unfortunate because of their limited belongings and possesions. In being very detailed about the description , the author successfully gives the audience a clear picture of the reality of life in Kenya. How a lot of poor people cannot enjoy the comforts that others do.

The only possession that the family has is that they own a piece of land. That land has a title deed and this deed is hanged on a wall inside their house. To be exact, the family only owns one and a half acres of land and the way they protect it makes one think that it may be a very expansive amount of land. To quote Kiguunda, “These one and a half acres? These are worth to me than all the thousands that belong to Ahab Kioi Wa Kanoru. These are mine own. Not borrowed robes.” This line definitely expresses the pride that Kiguunda has over just a few acres because at least, it is his very own. The story even starts with the husband and the wife having a discussion regarding the title deed which fell to the ground. The wife ranted at her husband at how he always gazes at the title deed. How the husband defended himself and reponsed regarding his great pride about the land they own shows that the piece of land is one of the main aspects in the play and has an important value in how the play would soon develop. The title deed is used by the author as a symbol for the pride of the Kenyan people. The land is also used to symbolize the country of Kenya. Even if it is a country that is poor and under developed. There are people who still choose to protect their homeland and refuse to give it up. Citizenship is very important to this people because even if they have poor living conditions in their country, at least it is something that they can call their own. What use is a land that is very rich when you feel alien to it and you feel like a stranger with no identity. Another moving line delivered by Kiguunda which is very relevant, “Oh, the seven years were not even over when we began to sing new songs with new voices, songs and voices demanding. Freedom for Kenya, our motherland.” This line is very powerful and very passionate. It shows the extreme love that some of the Kenyan people feel for their country. However, it is sad that this feeling of love may not be passed down to the children because of the effect of neo-colonialism on the mentality of the next generation.

This is true for Gathoni, the daughter, who is in constant conflict with her mother and father. It seems that she is tired of the life they are living. She is constantly complaining of their living conditions and seem uncontented of what they have. This may be caused by the riches she sees in the foreigners that begin occupying lands in Kenya. The author shows the effect of good food, clothes and material things to women who have experienced so little. They are easily attracted by colorful and beautiful things and would easily give up their beliefs, values and morality for gifts of beautiful finery. Another attitude that the author show in the play is that some of the parents would force their children to get married in order to improve their way of life. It shows little value for women at that time because it seems that a woman's purpose is only to find herself a husband who can provide for her. This part of the play, Gathoni says “I will marry when I want” and told her parents that she will decide for herself when it comes to this decision and she will not be forced to marry when she is not yet ready.

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Part of the conflict arised when Kiguunda received a letter offering to buy his land. The foreign settlers who are interested in buying the land possessions of the people are planning to put up a factory in the area. It was a factory that would manufacture insecticides for crops. This is when a lot of issues arised. The Mau Mau tribe who are responsible for fighting to earn liberation for Kenya are the ones initiating the encouragement of the people to sell their lands to the foreigners. They served as middle men for negotiations regarding the purchase of land. The author points out how corruption has affected the minds of the Kenyan people. They have taken sides and it was the side of the foreigners the took and not of their country and people. Here you can see the cruelty of foreigners who would do anything to earn. They would bribe men to turn against their kin in order for them to gain what they want. It also showcases the heartlessness of these foreigners because they do not care care about the effects of having a manufacturing plant erected in a community of people. Manufacturing plants emit gases and discharge wastes that may be hazardous to the health of the surrounding people.

Another element who played a part in corrupting the people are the Christians who used their influence to deceive people into believing that they have the people's interests at heart. They used the concept of not being materialistic to make the people think that they do not need their lands to get to heaven. They took advantage of the people's ignorance to encourage them to sell their lands.

What turned everything around was when Gathoni finally decided to get married to a wealthy man. As was Kenya's custom, it was the responsibility of the bride's family to pay for the reception. Since he has no money, Kiguunda was advised by a landowner to either sell his land or get a bank loan using his land as equity. Since he loved his land so much, he chose the latter. Unfortunately, when Gathoni got pregnant, the wealthy man rejected her. Everything got messy and eventually the family was defeated and dejected. The play ended with Kiguunda losing his land because he was not able to pay the loan amount. It is ironic how he never wanted to sell his land to the foreigners in the first place but ended up losing it as it was auctioned by the bank to the foreigners. It may not be a good move for Kiguunda but because of pride and love for his daughter he gave up his most beloved property. Interpreting this, one can say that a person who loves his country so much may be torn between choosing his country or his family. It is a hard choice for anyone to make.

In summary, what the play emphasizes is how neo-colonialism greatly affected the psyche of the Kenyan people. It is sad that though they struggled to have their country liberated, they were affected by a poison that made them greedy and heartless. The Mau Mau tribe in particular are the ones who shed sweat and blood to gain freedom for their country but their selfish desires eventually lead them to mislead and trick their own countrymen. The kind of mentality that they had were affected so much by foreigners who brainwashed them. They have developed corruption in their hearts and in their minds that caused them to throw away their patriotism and their love for their country and fellowmen. It is sad how economic gain can push people into thinking that it is allright to misuse the trust of your fellow to gain more. This is a bad practice that hinders the development of the nation. The play also attacks how religion played a great part of negatively influencing the people. Christianity was used as a vehicle to influence the townspeople to sell their lands and later give up their identity. Even if the values taught by the religious groups are well-meaning, it was used in a way of trickery and deceit. It is sad how something that was supposed to be good was used to cause the poor to become more poor. However, the constant struggle to get back what is rightfully theirs is still alive in the hearts of the people. It is hopeful to think that this will be awakened and freedom will one again be achieved. Praise for the authors of the play because of their courage in taking up such a controversial national issue. It even caused the author to be detained but the play is very powerful and as long as it exists and acknowledged by the African people and all the other races inspired by this, it will forever tell a story that is an eye opener for everyone.

“A land of limitless joy

a land rich in green fields and forest

Kenya is an African People's country”


Ngugi Wa Thiong'o. Ngugi Wa Mirii. 1982. I Will Marry When I Want. South Africa:

Heinemann Educational Publishers.

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