A Meeting in the Dark – Ngungi Wa Thing’o (Book Report)

Summary and Review

A meeting in the dark by James NgugiA meeting in the dark is a short story by Kenya’s prolific writer, Ngugi wa Thiong’o. The story is set in Kenya, among the Kikuyu community. The story is about a young man called John, who is among the few young men in his community to have acquired the ‘white man’s education’. In the story, John is revered and looked upon by many members of his community as the perfect representation of a ‘true African son’. John had managed to complete all the levels of education available in the country at that time and was set to leave for further education in a neighbouring country.

John, as the main character in the story is portrayed as optimistic about his future, once he acquires higher education. However there is something else that is holding him back, someone else who is casting shadows of doubt in his heart – Wamuhu. Wamuhu is John’s lover, who happens to get pregnant unexpectedly just before he leaves the country. John had done his best to hide his disturbed mind from showing on his face, but had achieved very little in the presence of his observant mother. Susana (John’s mother) could clearly see that her son was deeply troubled about something, but could not get much out of him She is presented by the author as closer to John compared to the father, who is portrayed as rather distant from John’s emotional development.

Recommended: The River and the Source by Margaret Ogola, Book Review

Continued preoccupation with the idea that he would be forced to marry Wamuhu and cut short his education causes John to develop anxiety. The anxiety turns to fear at the thought of his father discovering that his son had impregnated an ‘unbeliever’s daughter’. As the date of his departure approaches, he tries to come up with a plan of silencing Wamuhu – until he has managed to leave the country. Wamuhu is however aware of John’s impending departure, as John had not succeeded in keeping his educational opportunity a secret in his community.

Nightmares haunt John in his sleep, and when he cannot hold his peace any longer, he decides to go visit Wamuhu. He steadily heads towards the direction of Wamuhu’s home, reaches to the door, knocks and enters. John casts a glance across the room after being welcomed, as is the custom in his village, and notices that the person of his interest is not among them – Wamuhu. After a short while, he excuses himself and leaves in a hurry, nearly bumping into Wamuhu at the doorway.

John and Wamuhu move away from the house and walk along in the dark, where they hold their conversation. John tries to draw up all sorts of plans as to convince Wamuhu keep the pregnancy a secret from her parents, but she does not give in to any of John’s ideas. At some point, John encourages Wamuhu to lay the pregnancy responsibility on another young man so as to let him off the hook, but Wamuhu views this as an insult to her. She further informs John that her mother had already become suspicious owing to Wamuhu’s ‘heavy breathing’ as she slept.

At this point, John’s mind runs blank and seems to have run out of ideas on how to keep Wamuhu silent. He sees himself falling into a ‘bottomless pit’; he is unable to ‘contemplate the fall’. In a feat of confusion and desperation, John grabs Wamuhu by the neck and squeezes her tightly. He continues to tighten his grip on her as she gasps for air and free herself, but in vain. There in the dark, Wamuhu collapses, and John comes back to his senses as he looks on the Wamuhu’s body lying motionless on the ground. The story closes with the line“….he had created then killed”.