The novel Matigari Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 30 November 2016

The novel Matigari

The novel Matigari by Ngugi wa Thiongo was story that is apparently derived from the author’s personal experiences of the injustice and repressive rule of Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi. The backdrop of the story was set in the aftermath of the successful bid of an unnamed African country for independence which later turned to be a catastrophe. Ellington and Freimiller (2002) contend that the story “begins when its hero, freedom fighter Matigari ma Njiruungi, emerges from the forest and lays down his weapon to take up the belt of peace” (p. 174).

Matigari’s intention of coming out from the woods was just what any person in the same situation would do, to find his love ones and to redeem what was rightfully belongs to him that were lost because of war, and to seek to establish their lives, and to live in peace along with his family. In other words, it is a simple wish to live in peace with his family. It his right and it is very natural. As the story unfolds, one could notice without difficulty the character of Matigari as an innocent, honest, and patriotic person. He was a man whose love for his family compels him to give up his political struggle to pursue a peaceful life.

However upon his return, he finds that it was not all the same with his country and everything has changed. Corruption, injustice and the absence of truth confronted the society in all front. He realized that the present government of black African leaders is much worse than the white colonial government and the independence his country has gained was shattered and its new leaders have been corrupted. In the character of Matigari, one can see not only profound patriotism but above all, an enduring love for his family and his country.

His search for his children, and the women presumably his wives was an evident of his deep love for them which in a sense, was an allegory of his love for his country. As Ellington and Freimiller noted, in his search for his women, he finds Guthera, “who propositions him and asserts that “the most important thing is money” (p. 174). Here the author feels the people’s struggles for survival compels them to seek to earn money by whatever means available to them depicting that morality lost its value as the people struggled to survive.

The Government’s lack of concern on the welfare of its people led them to resort to such desperate means of earning money. In his analysis of the story, Bures compare the character of Matigari to Christ and Moses who has come out to lead his people out of slavery and oppression (Bures). Apparently, the novel depicts the socio-political condition of Africa in which corruption, injustice, and lies were the prevailing norms of the society. His love for his country urges him to put in writing the disasters that his country suffers under a corrupt government of black African dictators regardless of its consequence on his own life.

Being self exile in England, the author reveal his longing to return home for his family. But with his pen, the author confronts the corrupt government and ‘speaks up in behalf of the oppressed, telling them, there is hope. Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” presents a similar situation with Thiongo’s Matigari. Newman (1993) says that Kundera was a political exile in France from Czechoslovakia “whose books were banned in his native country” (Newman 1993, p. 101).

Like Thiongo, Kundera’s instrument of expressing his love for his country and his people was to denounce the oppression and injustice that rules his country. But the situation between the authors are pretty much different as well as their characters. In Thiongo’s novel, the character of Matigari was a radical yet patriotic whose love for his family compelled him to lay down his arms to seek a peaceful life only to find that the situation is worse than before. In his novel, Kundera depicted the political conflict between Russia and his native country, Czechoslovakia through the character of Tomas, a successful surgeon in Prague.

The ‘Unbearable Lightness of Being’ talks about the burden that that the character of the novel suffers in his desire to preserved his own integrity. In the story, it shows Tomas was approach by the government to retract his statement in a public debate on the issue of communism. When he refused, he was asked to sign a paper avowing his love for the Soviet Union, this he refused. However his refusal to cooperate with the Russians made him a “window washer” that no longer matters both to the government and to anyone.

This situation made life for Tomas and his wife unbearable, because of his desire to protect his integrity. He was oppressed and reduced to nothing for the sake of his commitment to his country. Tomas was stripped of everything and his integrity was utterly ruined, and had to live an unbearable life. However, the unbearable lightness of being may be a depiction of the feelings of his wife in view of the difficulties he has suffered as a result of ruined career and integrity. Small (2005) cited that “life is lightness” (p. 3).

In this case, the lightness of life is unbearable especially for Tereza, Tomas’s wife whose love for him made her to stand by her husband. Tomas’ love for her obviously led him to come back to Czechoslovakia. It seems obvious that the unbearable lightness of life for her refers to her husband’s fate in Czechoslovakia. In his review of the novel, Doctorow cited that Tereza’s refusal to live in exile brought Tomas back to Czechoslovakia despite that he has nicely set himself up in a Swiss hospital (Doctorow). Yet, here one can find the power of love.

Tomas has chosen to go back and live with his wife in Czechoslovakia in spite of the eminent danger for him. However, The Unbearable Lightness of Being does not only include her conscience, it also talks about infidelity and sexuality. For Tomas, lightness of being means lacking some important characteristic. It means lacking in moral responsibility and commitment to fedility. From this point, it is quite clear that the author has shifted his focus, from discussion of the political consequence of his decision; Kundera now turns to the issue of sexuality.

Tickell (2007) stated that in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, “Milan Kundera explores the experience of a moment of sheer ecstasy, in which happiness in its absolute weightlessness becomes ‘unbearable and must die” (p. 123). The novel in its sense concerns about the love that binds Tomas and his mistress, and his wife Tereza in their passion for love for each other and their homeland. In The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, the author confided that she was “full of hatred for the military when she wrote the book” (Allende 2004, p. 252).

Nevertheless she spoke with many people who had been victims of terror. The context by which the novel was written was the political struggles between the left and the right in the twentieth century Chile which led Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’ etat on September 1973, which paved the way to a repressive right- military dictatorship. The novel was controversial because of its obvious similarities with the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel, nevertheless, the character of Allande’s novel was intrinsically feminine. The novel also depicts the other side of love and relationship.

The character of the couple Esteban and Clara del Valle was an example of what should not be a relationship is. Cox (2003), stated their marriage “is a tragic one, as he loves her nearly to madness and she finds such human connection distracting and necessary” (Cox 2003, p. 31). The marriage was a one sided as according to Cox, Clara knows before she ever agrees to the match that “hers will be a marriage without love. Cox stated, “Esteban, for his part, wants nothing than to posses her utterly” (Cox, p. 31). Definitely, everyone will agree that this kind of relationship is doomed and will only lead to either ruin or violence.

But admittedly, this kind of relationship exists even today in which the only thing that binds the couple is money. There seems to be evidence that this is the case in the couple’s relationship. Cox noted that the couple “settle in a large home in the capital” which suggest that Esteban was indeed rich. The marriage of Esteban and Clara has indeed in ruin but not because of domestic violence but because of her involvement in occult religious practice. As the novel further unfolds, it reveals an acute family conflict that picture the wider scenario of her country.

The mirror the socio political situation that was going on in the country miniaturize by the author in her novel. Apparently, the author has a clear understanding of the issues confronting the society and she was able to illustrate it in a way that people can understand and relate to the situation. Conclusion The three novels obviously depicted three different situations in a way that it relates to love and relationship. The First novel depicts a more complex political situation in Africa wherein people suffered so much oppression and poverty.

They were more desperate for their survival and corruption and injustice continues to dominate both the government and society. With his novel Ngugi wa Thiongo’s confronted the corruption and injustice dominating the society. On the other hand, Milan Kundera in his “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” depicted the socio-political condition of Czechoslovakia under Russia. Although he seemed to have shifted his emphasis from a political view point, he was able to able to present the existing concept of the society on sexuality and relationship.

Lastly, the “House of the Spirits” is a miniaturized version of the existing socio-political condition of the time in Chili through her novel. The novel was indeed an appropriate depiction of the condition of society during her time, in the context of acute family conflict.


Allande, I. & Rodden, J. (2004) Conversations with Isabel Allende USA: University of Texas Press Bures, F. Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Novel http://www. tinhouse. com/mag/back_issues/archive/issues/issue_11/matigari. html Cox, K. C. (2003) Isabel Allende USA: Greenwood Publishing

Doctorow, E. L. Four Characters Under Two Tyrannies http://www. kundera. de/english/Bibliography/The_Unbearable_Lightness_of_Be/the_unbearable_lightness_of_be. html Ellington, E. & Freimiller, J. (2002) A Year of Reading Illinois: Sourcebooks Inc. Newman, R. (1993) Transgression of Reading: Narrative Engagement as Exile and Return USA: Duke University Press Small, J. (2005) Conversations with the Confessions Switzerland: Geneva Press Tickell, A. (2007) Arunddhati Roy’s the god of Small Things UK: Routledge

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