I Can't Think of a Catchy Title This Week: A Look at "Wedding at the Cross" by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Originally, I was going to review “Dagon” by H.P. Lovecraft this week. But given the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many others who have lost their lives in recent years, I cannot in good conscious review anything by that massive racist this week and will instead be reviewing a short story by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.
While the Lovecraft story I was going to review is no where near the level that “The Rats in the Wall” is on, Lovecraft was still a massive racist. He wasn’t shy with his racism in both his life and his writings. Reading his work with a modern eye, the racist undertones in his stories and poems are disgusting, disturbing, and they make me uncomfortable. At the same time, there are aspects of his writing that I enjoy. Lovecraft was incredible at creating mythos and weird creatures within a few short paragraphs, he is a staple in horror literature, but that does not excuse the things that he has written regarding minorities!
Thus, I feel that it is fitting to “honor” this racist’s memory by donating to both the Black Visions Collective and the Know Your Rights Camp. I do hope Lovecraft is rolling in his grave right now. If you have the means to do so, please considering donating to a fund, nonprofit, bail fund, or campaign to help fight for radical justice.
Now onto my incoherent ramblings, insane thoughts, and poor use of commas with my review of “Wedding at the Cross” by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.
This story focuses on two main characters: a young man and woman by the names of Wariuki and Miriamu who are in love. Naturally, there are problems keeping the pair apart. They’re a better love story than Twilight and Romeo and Juliet even though they don't have a happy ending either. As always, a spoiler alert is in order.
Miriamu comes from a “successful” Kenyan family. I put quotes around successful because while the family is wealthy, they are predominantly considered successful because the family has been colonized by the British, and that’s the reason the family is wealthy. British colonizers have told Miriamu’s father, a man who goes by the name Douglas Jones, what a successful man should be and look like. Basically, if you aren’t pretending to be British man, you aren’t and can’t be successful.
Wariuki on the other hand is considered unsuccessful because of his poverty. He has a job, but instead of saving money he decides to spend it on booze and having a fun time with friends on the weekends. This is what Miriamu loves about Wariuki. He is free, he hasn’t been colonized, he picks what he wants to do with his time and money instead of fighting to become a mirror image of the British colonizers.
It is when Wariuki asks Douglas Jones for Miriamu’s hand in marriage that things begin to change for Wariuki. Douglas, the great Christian man that he is, tells our protagonist that he shall never have Miriamu’s hand in marriage as long as he’s poor and not “bettering” himself. In response to this Miriamu and Wariuki elope, but Wariuki takes what Douglas says to heart and begins to change into a man Douglas would like.
Wariuki begins to not only save money to support his family, the one good thing to come out of his change, but he also begins to bounce around from job to job searching for the best paying, stable job. He doesn’t understand when others around him refuse to work for employers that treat the staff like shit. He believes that his family needs to dress in high-end clothing sold in the British run section of the town he lives in. He begins to attend a dull, shame inducing British run church that basically worships capitalism and not Christ. Miriamu choses instead to worship at a secret Christian sect that believes Christ died and suffered for the poor and offers a lively, joyous service that celebrates Christ and those who worship him.
I know, I just hit it you with a lot information in that last paragraph. It's necessary information though.
By this point in time in the story, there is a clear divide between Miriamu and Wariuki. Wariuki is still fixated on becoming a version of Douglas Jones. I want to call this a horror story because Wariuki is so brainwashed by his father-in-law into believe that you’re only worth something if you become colonized; it’s so tragic. It becomes even more so when the ending is Miriamu saying no at her vow renewal having come to terms that the man she fell in love with is gone forever.
Teach this story in schools! I found it to be so tragic and haunting. I was never taught subjects like colonization in school outside of a few main points. I’ve read a lot of post-colonialism literature in more recent years, but I would have loved if this literature was taught in high school and not just in college. Screw just teaching Shakespeare and To Kill a Mockingbird, teach students literature like this. Teach students literature not just from America or England; teach literature for countries all over the world and not just predominantly white countries.
“Wedding at the Cross” is an easy to follow piece, but it doesn’t sugar coat anything. It has showed me the issues that those who lived during and after colonialism faced in the 1900’s. And I can see how some of those ideals persist today.
Racism has persisted in society for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it needs to end. As many white people have been saying online these past few days, I understand that I will never understand, but I stand with you. That’s why I urge you, if you can, to donate to an organization, fund, campaign or all of the above that helps the Black Lives Matter movement. We are living through a tumultuous chapter in history, and I’ll be damned if I don’t stand up for what’s right.