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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

The Importance of “Wedding at the Cross” by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

At the beginning of June, I covered the short story “Wedding at the Cross” by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. I did a small review on the story, but was never happy with the review as it felt like I threw words on a page and called it even. I felt like the Spongebob meme where Patrick has a board nailed to his head after that post went up.

Patrick Star from Spongebob Squarepants with a board nailed to his head.
I swear, this is how I feel every time I sit down to write a new post.

But, I promised that I would come back to this story. One season later, I have collected my thoughts, and mulled over what I want to say on this story. As the title states, this is not a new review, this is not a hot take, this is a discussion on the importance of “Wedding at the Cross.”

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

As a reminder, “Wedding at the Cross” follows Wariuki and Miriamu, a young couple in love. Wariuki comes from a poor family, and spends what money he makes on booze and good times. Miriamu comes from a wealthier, Christian family, and her family is not a fan of Wariuki. After Miriamu’s father denies the pair his blessing, the two run away together.

Once again, this is a better love story than Twilight.

Miriamu is content with starting her life anew with Wariuki because she’s in love and he’s all she needs in life. Material objects are not what drive Miriamu; she just needs love and happiness. One would think Wariuki needs the same, and the beginning of their marriage is pretty great, but as it turns out, Wariuki is very affected by what Mariamu’s father had to say to him before the elopement.

According to Miriamu’s father, a man by the name of Douglas Jones, Wariuki is not worthy of much as he is poor and does not do anything to better his life. Money and social standing are what makes a person worthy. Clothing from high-end stores are what make a person worthy. Being a church elder makes a person worthy. What does not make a person worthy is personality or the good one does. According to Douglas Jones, you can only be worth something if you are colonized.

Dog holding a sign that says "fuck you."
Bringing back the FU dog for Douglas Jones.

Everything Douglas Jones and his family has is because of British colonization. All Jones’ beliefs are those that came about thanks to British colonization. And Wariuki wants his father-in-law’s approval, so much so that he will turn himself into the younger version of Douglas Jones.

Woman rolling her eyes.
Wariuki, you are better than this!

This comes at a grave cost as over the years his marriage to Miriamu suffers. Despite having two sons, owning a mill, and having a wife who loves him, Wariuki needs, no craves, Douglas Jones’ approval. He needs to clothe his family in the finest clothing all the way from Britain. He needs to be a pillar of the community by becoming a church elder. It doesn’t matter that his family can want for nothing as he reaches middle age. It doesn’t matter that his kids are getting an education. The Wariuki who once sang and danced in the town square is now gone; all thanks to colonization.

If you’re looking for a straight up, unoriginal thesis statement for this post then here you go: “Wedding at the Cross” details the tragic aftermath of British colonization, thus showing just how important post-colonial literature is.

Not my best thesis statement, but I’m not mad at it. I’ve also once again threw a lot of information in your face, but it is very much necessary info for the rest of this post.

As I’ve stated, Douglas Jones and his family are well off and respected members of their community. Their wealth comes from England though. They are respected church members because they are able to spend funds on the church. They reached their positions because of colonization. Like I said in my first post on this story, Miriamu’s family is “successful” due to the fact the family has been colonized by the British. You can’t be successful if you don’t act exactly like the British. And because of this, Jones feels the need to look down on his community and those who have not benefited because of Britain; people like Wariuki.

Dog holding a sign that reads "fuck you."
The FU dog has spoken.

This could be the triumphant story of Miriamu and Wariuki who live their lives together and have their struggles but not feel the need to live like Douglas Jones. This is not what happens as Wariuki feels the need to turn himself into his father-in-law.

This story is a tragedy, one may even call it a horror story, based on the issues Miriamu and Wariuki face during their marriage. Their lives fall apart all thanks to the ideals Wariuki full heartedly believes in by the end of the story. Any sense of community or individuality he once had is destroyed thanks to people like Douglas Jones.

1920's style woman being disappointed.
Truly a tragedy.

Jones is the embodiment of British colonization. He is the person who has benefited the most from it, and he is the one to push the ideals that came from colonization onto others. He represents the colonizers who came before, and he is there to enforce the British ideals. The cycle is set to continue with Wariuki taking the place of Jones and Miriamu taking her husband’s spot. Miriamu, strong in her beliefs, breaks the cycle.

Woman clapping.
In this household, we stan Miriamu.

She has lived in the wealth provided by colonization, and she has lived in the poverty colonization has also brought. She has attended both English run and African run Christian churches. She has seen the highs and lows, the good and bad, that people are capable of. She has learned that material objects and wealth don’t make a person worthy of love, happiness, and a good life. She has learned that what makes a person worthy of a good life is how one acts and treats others. She has learned the value of being an individual. Beliefs brought by colonization have nothing to do with either of those things; unlike what some of the other characters may think.

“Wedding at the Cross” really only shows the tip of the iceberg when it comes to colonization. Colonization brought forth many more economic and social issues I have not even touched on. “Wedding at the Cross” mainly focuses on how money equals one’s social standing; or at least that’s the main point I’ve taken from the story.

As I stated in my first post of this short story, teach literature like this in school. Outside of a few main points on colonization, I did not learn about it and the issues it brought until I was in college. I said it before and I’ll say it again, teach students literature not just from America or England; teach literature for countries all over the world and not just predominantly white countries. There are stories that are just as tragic as Shakespeare plays from countries like Kenya and Vietnam.

Let’s face it, literature is how people can learn about and see the world. Literature is a massive way to learn about history. Stories like “Wedding at the Cross” are more than just a tragic short story. Stories like “Wedding at the Cross” are how one can learn about the injustice that is colonization, and how people were affected by it in various ways.

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