The Resemblance of Colonial Mimicry: A Revisionary Reading of Ngugi wa Thiong'o's The River Between

Amoko, Apollo O.
March 2005
Research in African Literatures;Spring2005, Vol. 36 Issue 1, p34
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
My essay attempts a revisionary reading of Ngugi wa Thiong'o's The River Between. The first work by a leading African/postcolonial novelist, this novel has generally been read in terms of an "English aesthetic" that Ngugi would come explicitly and decisively to repudiate in his later writing, most notably Petals of Blood and Devil on the Cross. Along with Ngugi's second novel, Weep Not, Child, The River Between is thought to display a certain simplicity, if not naivete, in terms of its aesthetic ideology. My argument is that critics have overlooked the depth and complexity of Ngugi's early fiction. Ngugi's apparent embrace of "Englishness" in his earliest fiction is riddled with ambivalence, ambiguity, and slippage. Undoubtedly, The River Between and Weep Not, Child draw on aesthetic models from Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, and Thomas Hughes. But these texts are colonial mimics that critique even as they seem to imitate.


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