DEVIL ON THE CROSS NGUGI WA THIONG’O
DEVIL ON THE CROSS NGUGI WA THIONG’O
TITLE: DEVIL ON THE CROSS
AUTHOR: NGUGI WA THIONG’O
SETTING: KENYA, AFRICA
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1968
- Language (Figures of Speech)
- Various Quotes
Devil on the Cross is a Kenyan novel that focuses primarily on the lives of Kenyans.
Shortly after Kenyan independence from European imperial nations, it was easily arguable that Kenya still was not truly independent.
Although the country had their own legislatures, the influence of international culture and currency still played a large role in the daily lives of everyday citizens.
In the opinion of the author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, this was a bad influence.
Devil on the Cross is a 1980 novel by the Kenyan writer, dramatist, and extremist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, composed initially in Gikuyu (under the title Caitaani mũtharaba-Inĩ) and converted into English by the writer himself.
The tale pursues a forbearing youthful Kenyan lady Jacinta Wariinga as she goes to the “Fallen angel’s Feast,” a festival of Kenya’s abuse by the powers of Western free enterprise, went to by both Western agents and the Kenyan bourgeoisie who help and abet them in their seizure of Kenyan riches. The epic mixes a moral story, a dream-account, and a pragmatist story of normal Kenyan life to remark on the contribution of Western organizations in Kenyan monetary life.
The tale opens as the storyteller presents his story in a hesitant tone:
it is his obligation to hand-off this pitiful and perhaps dishonorable record of occasions in the town of Ilmorog.
In Chapter 2, the storyteller presents his hero, Jacinta Wariinga, who is toward the finish of her tie.
During an undertaking with the “Rich Old Man of Ngorika,” she got pregnant. The Rich Old Man deserted her.
Wariinga had her child and came back to secretarial school, getting a new line of work at Champion Construction.
Before long, her manager Kihara made advances on her, and Wariinga had to find employment elsewhere.
This didn’t prevent her from losing her beau, John Kinwana, who accepted she had laid down with Kihara.
Incapable to pay her lease, Wariinga has been tossed out of her studio loft by three hooligans following up on her landowner’s requests.
Despondently, Wariinga takes herself to the railroad tracks, where she expects to slaughter herself.
In any case, she is avoided by the appearance of a man named Munti, who convinces her to give life another possibility and gives her a solicitation to the “Demon’s Feast.”
When Wariinga understands that this Feast is occurring in her folks’ old neighborhood of Ilmorog, she chooses to go.
She goes by “matatu” (taxi-transport), and on the long voyage, she bonds with her kindred travelers:
Gatuīria, an African Studies educator who works abroad;
Wangarī, a laborer lady from the profound nation;
Mūturi, a mechanical specialist, and Mwĩreri wa Mũkiraaĩ, an agent.
They likewise become acquainted with the driver, Mwaūra, a persevering man who loves cash and adores the rich.
Businessperson Mwĩreri clarifies that the Devil’s Feast is a challenge: the visitors will pick the seven cleverest criminals and looters in Ilmorog.
Mwĩreri thinks this challenge is something to be thankful for.
It isn’t generally sorted out by the Devil, he clarifies, however by the Organization for Modern Theft and Robbery.
The event for the Feast is a visit by remote visitors from the
Thieves’ and Robbers’ relationship of America, England, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, and Japan.
The travelers concur that they will all go together to the Devil’s Feast.
At the Feast, Wariinga and different travelers witness the neighborhood Kenyan bourgeoisie (the individuals from the Organization for Modern Theft and Robbery) each set out their case for the title of cleverest cheat.
Each man brags of an alternate plan that he has used to ransack Kenyan specialists of the estimation of their work.
Mwĩreri recommends that the Organization drive the outsiders out of Ilmorog so as to take a greater cut of the riches for themselves; a hullabaloo breaks out.
Wariinga and Gatuīria choose to stay as spectators, while Wangarī and Mūturi, frightened by what they have heard, choose to call the police to capture oneself broadcasted Thieves and Robbers.
Notwithstanding, when the police show up they capture just Wangarī, and drag him away.
Mūturi raises a horde of neighborhood laborers, understudies, scholarly people and workers, who walk on the cavern where the Feast is occurring.
They figure out how to separate the occasion, however the individuals from the Organization and their outside visitors all break.
Two years pass. Wariinga is locked in to Gatuīria, and through extensive and costly preparing, she has satisfied an old fantasy about turning into an architect at a carport.
In the mean time Gatuīria has completed the melodic structure he has been taking a shot at, respecting Kenyan history.
Wariinga’s old chief, Kihara, with the support of businesspeople from America, Germany, and Japan, purchases the carport where Wariinga works, so he can wreck it and develop a traveler inn on the site.
Gatuīria takes Wariinga to meet his folks. There she discovers that Gatuīria’s dad is the “Rich Old Man” who left her when she was pregnant. At long last Wariinga snaps.
She shoots Gatuīria’s dad and a few different visitors, whom she perceives from the Devil’s Feast.
Gatuīria is left standing, uncertain whose side to take, as Wariinga strides from the house.
(Jacinta Warĩĩnga (Protagonist) vs. the awful events – and those who perpetrate them – in Kenya (Antagonist))
Jacinta Wariinga is the main character of the novel, and is introduced beginning in the second chapter.
Jacinta has recently lost her boyfriend, and has become suicidal.
Luckily, a man saves her before she is about to commit suicide, and he hands her an invitation to some sort of party called “The Devil’s Feast”.
Jacinta decides to go, as the feast is in her parents’ hometown. On the way there, she takes a bus, and meets people that also want to go to the party with her.
She is happy to bring them along, but does not like how some of them place such a high importance on money, which is materialistic and of international origin.
As it turns out, the “Devil’s Feast” was a collection of Kenyan businessmen and women who are sharing how they earned their profits.
Most of them profited on the backs of the poor, which disgusts Jacinta and some of the others that she brought to the party with her.
However, some of Jacinta’s guests hop on board with the idea, and see nothing wrong with profiting off of cheap labor.
This Kenyan woman has been seriously struggling in the wake of Kenyan independence.
The instability of the government and economy are not abstract frustrations for Jacinta.
In fact, her boyfriend has been killed, and without him she has a hard time mustering enough hope to go on in life.
She spirals into a suicidal depression in the rising action of the book, but then right as she goes to take her own life, someone stops her and takes her on an enlightening yet painful journey of discovery.
The savior figure
The mysterious figure who finds her and stops Jacinta from killing herself is something like a savior figure in Jacinta’s mind.
He invites her to attend a feast called “The Devil’s Feast,” and tells her that the party will be deeply insightful for her in her struggles.
The emotional turmoil that she feels is obviously extreme, so she agrees to go with the man.
The title Devil on the Cross is a reference to this feast and the fact that she has a hard time telling whether this man who saved her from suicide is good or evil.
The “Devil’s Feast” guests
At the “Feast,” Jacinta is made to sit and listen to lengthy speeches where the various unnamed guests of the “Devil’s Feast” all stand and explain why they are eligible to celebrate at the devil’s own table.
They are guilty of extortion, exploitative business practices, and schemes.
They tell their stories at the party, bragging about how easy it was to make money once they decided to do evil.
Jacinta is stunned by what they say.
Narrator and Point of View
“He had a well-fed body; his cheeks were round, like two melons; his eyes were big and red, like two plums; his neck was huge, like the stem of a baobab tree.
His stomach was only slightly larger than his neck. He had two golden teeth in his lower jaw, and when talking, he opened his lips wide so that the gold teeth could be seen.
He had on a silk suit which shone in the light, changing color according to the intensity of the light and the angle of the beam” (Devil on the Cross, 87).
This description encompasses three similes in which the cheeks of the MC are equated to two melons, his eyes to two plums and his neck to the “stem of a baobab tree.”
All these similes and metaphors in this paragraph are used as a representation of the capitalists and loyalists.
The presentation of the seven foreign delegates
The presentation of the seven delegates (foreign capitalists) is also apparent in Devil on the Cross.
The seven foreign capitalists alluded to at the time included the members of the G-7, that is, the US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada.
The dominance of the US over the other members is also evident through the fact that the seat on which the leader of the foreign delegates sat:
“The seat taken by the leader of the foreign delegation was a little higher than the others.
On his right sat three foreigners, and on his left sat the other three” (Devil on the Cross, 91).
In the description below, similes are used in the comparison of the redness of the skin of the delegates to that of pigs or that of a scalded person of African descent and their body fur to bristles:
“As she stared at them, Warring noted that their skins were indeed red, like that of pigs or like the skin of a black person who has been scalded with boiling water or who has burned himself with acid creams.
Even the hair on their arms and necks stood out stiff and straight like the bristles of an aging hog” (Devil on the Cross, 91).
In addition, the delegates wear suits that are different with the currency of each of the countries of the delegates origin used to metaphorically represent the identity of that particular delegate and then likened through the use of a simile to a scout’s uniform:
“There were differences in the suits they wore.
The one worn by the leader was made of dollars, the Englishman’s of pounds, the German’s of Deutschmarks, the Frenchman’s of francs, the Italian’s of lire, the Scandinavian’s of kroner, and the Japanese delegates of yen.
Each suit was decorated with several badges, like those worn by scouts” (Devil on the Cross, 91).
The number of countries within the G-7
The delegates are portrayed as wearing hats that are likened to crowns.
The crowns have objects of a metallic nature on them that are shaped in a way likened to horns.
The “horns” are used to metaphorically represent the G-7 countries, particularly, the number of horns on a hat is equivalent to the number of the member countries within the G-7.
Additionally, the number 7 creates a parallelism between the foreign delegates and the Devilish group:
“they wore hats like crowns. Each crown was decorated with seven metal objects shaped like horns, which gleamed so brightly that they almost blinded the eyes…” (Devil on the Cross, 91).
The Devil of Imperialism
“The judge was a European, with a skin that was red like a pig’s.
His nose was peeling, like a lizard’s body.
He wore glasses with big arms” (Devil on the Cross, 43).
“there came others dressed in suits and ties, who, keeping close to the wall of darkness, lifted the Devil down from the Cross.
And they knelt down before him, and they prayed to him in loud voices, beseeching him to give them a portion of his robes of cunning.
And their bellies began to swell, and they stood up…” (Devil on the Cross, 13-14).
These men are a representation of the way in which people or countries in the third-world countries look up to the first world countries and even indulge their values (resurrected the vices delineated as colonial, imperialistic or capitalistic—“lifted the Devil down from the Cross”), and as such, they become like them and practice their virtues.
The portrayal of the Kenyan Capitalists/ Thieves/Robbers
The Kenyan capitalists in Devil on the Cross is presented in using similes and metaphors.
The first contestant is defined as:
“The suit that this competitor was wearing was the kind that had been baptized Napier-Grass-Son-of-Trembling.
It showed no sign of ever having been pressed.
He was tall and lanky. But his eyes were big; they were like two electric bulbs hanging from a tall eucalyptus tree.
His arms were long, and he swung them this way and that way, as if he did not know what to do with them –whether to put them in his pockets, to hold them stiff, like a soldier standing to attention, or to fold them, like a man in defiant mood …And there and then, Ndaaya, bending low on the platform, Ndaaya wa Kahuria began swinging his arms this way and that, as if he could see real chickens in front of him…” (Devil on the Cross, 94).
Examples of Irony:
Kenyan independence and instability
The novel has two kinds of prose in it.
One kind of prose is personal storytelling about a character named Jacinta, and the other kind of prose is reflective prose about the state of affairs in Kenya.
That second, more ambient prose indicates that there is an irony in Kenya.
Although Kenya is very happy to be out from under the exploitative dominion of European powers, the unfortunate truth is that their exploitation makes Kenya more unlikely to become stable as a sovereign state.
As for the personal aspect of this narrative, Jacinta is also a witness of great irony.
The major irony in her story is that she is saved from a suicide attempt by a well-timed encounter with some random man who gives her his invitation to the “Devil’s Feast.”
She is saved from death to be given an opportunity to learn more about evil and “the Devil.”
In a way, she is a martyr before and after the intervention.
She is almost martyred by suicidal depression, but is saved to become a witness of corruption and evil.
The ironic feast
As mentioned, the feast is deeply ironic. Its title is nearly offensive and insinuates demonic, occult associations.
They make good on their name, too, because the feast is wealthy businessmen reveling in their wealth.
They even take turns to brag to each other about how they were able to become wealthy by exploiting their community in various ways.
The feast shows Jacinta something concealed from her by dramatic irony, that some people are becoming rich by exploiting Kenyan instability.
The various tag-along guests
The “Devil’s Feast” is ironically being held in Jacinta’s hometown, which makes the bitter irony of it all more close-to-the-heart.
On her way, various people ask to tag along with her to the party, and she manages to get them in.
Together, the group of strangers show various responses that one might have to injustice.
Some people are offended like Jacinta, but some people are excited by the new ideas they gained from the evil businessmen.
Some of the tag-along guests decide to try these exploitative practices themselves.
That is deeply ironic to Jacinta.
The ironic power of anger
A cursory analysis of the plot will raise another ironic aspect of the book.
Jacinta believed that her hopelessness was evidence of her desire for hope, but she ends up becoming satisfied in a completely different way.
She is saved from despair by the gift of extreme anger.
The anger about injustice orients her suffering in an appropriate understanding of malice and exploitation.
The deathly aspect of her despair shows that she is a martyr. As a martyr, she witnesses injustice.
Examples of Imagery:
The imagery of Kenyan life just following their independence from European nations constitutes the major imagery of the book.
Even the personal narrative aspects of the novel are evidence of that independence and the way it shapes community.
The instability is caused by the same force that made independence necessarily; the European nations who were in power in Kenya were highly exploitative and often took the resources, leaving little behind for the citizens of Kenya.
Now, they are attempting to establish some kind of stable government, but in light of scarcity and corruption, that is becoming difficult.
Despair and depression
The imagery of despair shapes Jacinta’s private emotional life. She is so overwhelmed by hopelessness and despair that they feel more like spiritual afflictions than emotions.
She describes her agony as ubiquitous and impossible.
She feels that there is no hope for her, but then randomly, the universe sends her a salvific intervention.
A random man stops her from committing suicide and sends her to research the evil of her community at “The Devil’s Feast.”
The evil party
The “Devil’s Feast” is an important part of the imagery of the novel, because through that experience, Jacinta learns about evil and malice.
The imagery of malice was not angry thugs or ravenous cannibals—at least not literally.
In fact, the imagery is ironic in many ways.
For one thing, it is a party in her hometown.
That is a way of saying through imagery that evil is “close to home.”
The evil people are wealthy.
They are powerful. They brag openly about their exploitative business practices.
Martyrdom and experience
Jacinta’s emotional transformation in the book is evidence that the author is employing imagery of martyrdom in this novel.
As a portrait of martyrdom, the journey takes her through extreme but awakening emotions of frustration and hopelessness that give her experience through which she can correctly assess the situation of her home nation.
As a martyr, her witness is that evil men are managing to exploit the instability of her country for profit.
Her witness is complete when she sees the same exploitative aspects in the strangers around her who are also poor.
Even among the poor, some are happy to do evil if it means they could one day be rich. She is a martyr of corruption and malice
Examples of Symbols:
All through this novel, national dress is alluded to as an image of the social opposition of a country against its pilgrim and supreme oppressors.
When Warĩĩnga wears national dress to the tea part at Gatuĩria’s parent’s home, she takes part in a demonstration of obstruction against social colonialism, which directs that the methods for the west are ideal.
The Cross whereupon the Devil is executed and afterward spared is an image of the deficient procedure of decolonization and autonomy.
While the workers accept that they have won opportunity through political freedom, the Devil resurges—as did Christ, as indicated by Christian religious philosophy—and rises again in another structure: neo-imperialism.
All through this novel, suits are utilized as images of industrialist belief system.
The industrialist agents wear suits so as to impart their status and riches.
Warĩĩnga’s mental instability is understated in the middle portion of the book
Kenya and its history and geography, popular culture, religion, and Thiong’o’s other books.
wa Thiong’o uses intense imagery to underscore how harsh and violent the situation Warĩĩnga experiences.
Munti may or may not be a real person, yet he/she saves Warĩĩnga.
Warĩĩnga’s story and the story of countless Kenyans are paralleled often in the book.
Kenya as a country is personified often throughout the book.
ANALYSIS OF CONTENT
Despair and turmoil
Jacinta’s story is both individual and communal. On the communal front, she suffers with her community in the difficult wake of Kenyan independence.
The fledgling nation has not had what most would call a peaceful transition, nor is there stability.
Jacinta’s private life makes this many times worse, because she is in turmoil about the death of her boyfriend.
Without his companionship, she does not see any hope for the future, and the novel takes time exploring her suicidal depression thematically.
Instability and corruption
Jacinta survives her suicidal depression with the help of a random passerby who stops her and invites her to an insightful feast where she learns about corrupt businessmen and the various ways they profited by corruption.
In general, their stories are about exploiting the instability of the government to cut corners.
They are sometimes guilty of business practices that verge on slavery of their own community, but the men are rich enough to get away with it in the unstable economy.
Evil and money
The whole “Devil” motif in the novel is a reference to this central theme.
Jacinta is saved from suicidal depression and invited to a club where she does not belong.
There she learns firsthand that many of the richest people in her economy are not even trying to help Kenya become a stable and sovereign government.
They betray their own people in many different ways and then boast in those betrayals.
The thematic connection between evil and money gives Jacinta something other than hope or happiness; it gives her deep anger at the mistreatment of people happening in her own community.
Jacinta Warĩĩnga’s struggle to stay alive and keep her spirits up despite her circumstances in Kenya, as well as the class struggle between rich and poor.
“This country, our country, is pregnant. What it will give birth to, only God knows… Imagine! the children of us workers are fated to stay out in the sun, thirsty, hungry, naked, gazing at fruit ripening on trees which they can’t pick even to quieten a demanding belly!”
Akin to most Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s narratives, the story explores the dynamic in a post-colonialism independent Kenyan nation.
Therefore focuses on the exploitation and corruption in the newly formed government by the officials and rich businessmen.
The characters offer their perspective on how they have experienced oppression and economically exploited for the benefit of a few.
The narrative uses various motifs and allegories to refer to power-hungry and greedy rich people in a nation with many still living in destitute situations.
The statement predicts how the rich few and the bourgeoisie will continue to benefit on the backs of the poor and the cycle with repeat itself for a long period.
“Our people think: I, Wangarī , a Kenyan by birth – how can I be a vagrant in my own country as if I were a foreigner.”
Even though the nation had acquired independence from the British government, the socio-political and economic arenas were still influenced by foreign powers.
The idea of neo-imperialism is explored in the narrative through the characters who have fallen victim to the structures.
Kenyan independence gave many particularly the lower class hope that they will get their nation and riches back.
However, the few rich in power only looked out for their own affairs and left the rest of the nation in the same shackles.
In the assertion, Wangarī is charged with walking in the capital city without a job or home by a system instilled by the foreign government.
Thus, demonstrates how colonialism turned locals into aliens in their own home by marginalizing them.
“The Virgin Mary, Jesus, and God’s angels were white, like European, but the devil and his angels were black.”