Notes on The River and the Source

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NOTES ON MARGARET OGOLA’S
THE RIVER AND THE SOURCE
PLOT SUMMARY / SYNOPSIS
The story is divided into four parts. The first part focuses on Akoko’s birth, childhood and marriage, the second looks
at Akoko’s daughter, the third follows Akoko’s grand-daughter – Elizabeth and her family while the fourth pays
attention to Akoko’s great-grandchildren.
Part 1: GIRL CHILD
The story begins with the birth of Akoko, the first daughter of Odero Gogni, the Chief of Yimbo. Akoko grows into
a beautiful woman and her suitor, Owuor Kembo has to pay thirty head of cattle to marry her. The two are blessed
with two boys – Obura and Owang’ Sino and a girl named Nyabera.
Unfortunately, Akoko losses her eldest son, her husband and her younger son to death, in quick succession which
leaves her in the hands of her brother-in-law – Otieno Kembo.
Chief Otieno Kembo inherits the seat left vacant by his elder brother and uses the opportunity to take over Akoko’s
property. Akoko is defiant and resorts to get help from the White man in Kisuma. Akoko manages to get some of her
possessions back and decides to go back to Yimbo.
Part II: – THE ART OF GIVING
In this part, Nyabera is married to Okumu who, unfortunately, dies. Since Nyabera is only twenty-six, she is inherited
by Ogoma Kwach – as tero custom dictates. Nyabera and Ogoma sire two children but both die due to sickle cell
anaemia.
Battered and bruised, Nyabera seeks refuge at Aluor Mission where she is later joined by her mother, her daughter
and nephew, Owuor. Nyabera goes back to Kwach in the hope of rekindling their marriage but is unsuccessful and
returns to the mission.
Owuor Sino, the rightful heir to Owuor Kembo, drops his desire to succeed as Chief and instead opts to join
priesthood. Awiti, on the other hand, trains as a teacher in a local college where she encounters Mark Sigu – a former
soldier.
After meeting Mark Sigu, Akoko dies peacefully in her sleep and her grandson – Peter Owuor Kembo – presides over
the mass.
Awiti, who is baptized as Elizabeth, and Mark move to Nakuru where they start a family. Their first child dies due to
the young couple’s ignorance but they’re soon blessed with a set of twins.
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Part III: – LOVE AND LIFE
Elizabeth and Mark move to Nakuru where they soon get a baby boy – Aoro. This is during the struggle for Kenya’s
independence and due to political tension in Nakuru, Elizabeth is forced to go back to Aluor mission.
She comes back and the couple gets a boy, Tony, another set of twins – Opiyo and Odongo and the last born is a girl
who they name Mary.
While Aoro shows interest in Medicine, Tony wants to pursue priesthood. Very and Becky take different paths with
the former becoming an electrical engineer while the latter finds a career as an air hostess. Becky meets John Courtney
– a Canadian – and the two get married.
Part IV: VARIABLE WINDS
Aoro joins medical school where he meets Wandia Mugo and the two develop a close friendship. While Aoro is an
intern in Nairobi, Wandia is sent to Machakos for the same. The two get married despite coming from different tribes
and they are blessed with a set of twins – Daniel and Lisa.
Becky, who is unhappy in her marriage despite being wealthy, leaves John and due to her unfaithfulness, becomes
HIV positive and dies soon afterwards.
The Aoros adopt Becky’s children as they get two more children of their own – Mugo and Kipusa. It is also discovered
that Daniel is suffering from Down’s syndrome and leukemia but his parents refuse to give up hope.
Wandia secures a scholarship at John Hopkin’s Hospital in America, where she is awarded a PhD. in medicine.
The book ends when Elizabeth dies having seen her children prosper in different areas of life
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES
PART 1
THE GIRL CHILD
Chapter 1
The story begins with the birth of Akoko, the first girl in a family of seven boys. Akoko is the daughter of Chief
Odero Gogni of Yimbo and his second wife, Aketch. Though fond of crying, (hence the name ‘Akoko’), she develops
quite fast and by the age of seven and a half months, she is able to walk.
At the age of four, she gets a sister and she is initiated when the time is right. By the time she is seventeen, her father
begins receiving marriage proposals for her. However, her stubborn father and her twenty one brothers make it
difficult for her to get a suitor even by her nineteenth birthday.
Chapter 2
Many suitors come to seek Akoko’s hand in marriage but they are all turned away by her father. At last, a young man
by the name of Owuor Kembo, Chief of Sakwa, in full war regalia, arrives and impresses Chief Gogni as a man full
of ‘nyadhi‘.
Chief Gogni sets Akoko’s bride price at thirty head of cattle which is two and a half times the usual bride price – this
is meant to be a test on the suitor. To the surprise of many, and out of pride, young Chief Owuor does not bargain,
much to the chagrin of his younger brother Otieno.
The marriage is set for the fourteenth day of the following month and Akoko is called in for the visitors to see her.
Unlike other girls of her time, she walks in bravely looking straight at her future husband and young Chief Owuor,
immediately, falls in love with her.
Chapter 3
On the fourteenth day of the following month, thirty head of cattle are driven into the compound of Chief Gogni in
the company of many young men. The visitors are received by some local young men and guided to a hut where they
feast late into the night.
At the first cockcrow, Akoko is ‘stolen’ from Chief Gogni’s compound amid a lot of noise and her screaming. She is
taken to Sakwa where she is received with a lot of ululations and everyone in the village comes to get a glimpse of
Chief Owuor’s ‘mikai‘(the first wife).
After ten months, she gives birth to a baby boy – Obura and four years later, a girl – Nyabera. Owuor is very protective
of the girl while he is under pressure from her mother to marry a second wife.
Chapter 4
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While Akoko is caring for her children, her mother-in-law is blaming her for not getting more children and for
preventing his son from marrying another wife. She alleges that Akoko has bewitched his son.
The news of the mother-in-law’s allegations reaches Akoko who wakes up the following day wailing and screaming.
This disturbance attracts a sizable crowd and she narrates her troubles, with the mother-in-law, to everyone – this
happens while Chief Owuor is away on a friend’s burial.
In haste, Akoko gathers a few belongings and leaves her matrimonial home and the children behind.
When Owuor returns, he is angered by his mother’s actions and calls for the council of ‘Jodongo‘ who agree to send
messengers to Yimbo to report that a delegation of elders would be coming to negotiate the return of Akoko. The
messengers are received coldly and only the dictates of ‘chik’ save them from harm.
Chapter 5
The ‘Jodong’o from Sakwa and Yimbo converge for a meeting to discuss the events that led to Akoko’s actions. Both
Akoko and Owuor are given chances to present their versions of events.
Akoko admits that she loves her husband but that her mother and brother-in-law had insulted her by calling her ‘a
witch’. Owuor, on the other hand, is defensive and admonishes Akoko for being rash and irresponsible in her actions.
Oloo castigates Akoko for being impatient but also acknowledges the gravity of the accusations since they were an
insult on the whole Yimbo clan. In the end, the parties agree that Owuor pays a goat to appease Akoko’s mother and
Akoko is ordered to go back to Sakwa the following day.
Chapter 6
Shortly after her return, Akoko conceives and gives birth to a baby boy named Owang’ Sino. Meanwhile, Otieno, the
younger brother to Owuor, has four wives and eighteen children. He treats his wives like sluts in contrast to Owuor
who treats Akoko like a queen.
Obura, who is now seventeen, is interested in what is happening in the world now being ruled by white men. He
wants to go and see the world but his father admonishes him and reminds him of his duty as the next chief.
Chapter 7
Obura, who has been very quiet and obedient, changes drastically to a moody seventeen year old. His parents wake
up, one day, and discover that he has disappeared.
Chief Owuor assembles two search parties and sends them off to look for his son. However, they return empty-handed
with the shocking news that Obura had been picked up by some white men. This news is devastating to Akoko who
believes that she will never see her son again.
Chapter 8
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Misery engulfs the Owuor homestead for almost two years since Obura’s disappearance. Chief Owuor and Akoko
are affected so much that they do not talk about the issue.
One day, messengers for the ‘Sirikal’ (colonial government) arrive in Chief Owuor’s compound. They come to inform
the Chief that the First World War was over and that the British had won. They also report that three young men from
his village had taken part in the war. Unfortunately, only one – Nyaroche Silwal – had survived.
They present the Chief with a bracelet sent to him by the white men in honour of Obura’s service. The Chief is furious
and throws it away, only for Nyabera to pick it and hide it. The village goes into mourning for the Chief’s son as
tradition dictates.
Chapter 9
In this chapter, Nyabera is deeply affected by the death of her brother, Obura. With the help of her mother, she finally
accepts it and heals. She grows up to be an intelligent and hardworking girl and when she turns eighteen, suitors start
calling.
Finally, a suitable suitor called Okumu is accepted because he comes from the nearby village and Akoko hopes to
see his daughter often. After two marry, they are blessed with a child who dies immediately and the next two are
sickly.
In the meantime, Owang’ Sino tries to fit into the shoes of his late brother with little success. He decides to marry
quickly especially since his father was sick. A suitable girl is found but before a bride price is paid, the Chief dies.
Akoko mourns her husband’s death by donning his monkey skin and headdress and a spear in one hand and a shield
in the other. She sings dirges in his honour.
After the funeral, the marriage negotiations conclude and Alando Nyar is brought home as Owang’ Sino’s wife. The
couple is blessed with a baby boy – Owuor.
Misfortune befalls Akoko when Owang’ Sino chokes to death and the Chiefdom has to go to the hateful Otieno until
Owuor can be of age.
Chapter 10
Otieno takes over the Chief’s stool and he use the opportunity to grab his brother’s wealth and even wants to take
Akoko’s belongings. Akoko’s intelligence and foresight leads her to Kisuma to seek the assistance of the white man.
She takes her grandson, Owuor, to her brother Oloo and visits Nyabera to tell her of her journey. She also urges
Nyabera to believe that Were would give her a child who would live.
After five days, with Nyabera, Akoko embarks on her journey to Kisuma with the company of Oloo’s twins – Opiyo
and Odongo – to seek justice.
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Chapter 11
Oloo sends his sons – Opiyo and Odongo – to accompany Akoko to Kisuma. Akoko tries to send them back but they
refuse. On the journey, the twins are amazed at Akoko’s bravery even in darkness. Akoko also takes the opportunity
to teach the twins about the history of Ramogi.
When they arrive near Kisuma, they meet Otuoma, a stranger, who agrees to accommodate them before they could
see the D.O. the following day.
The next day, Otuoma escorts Akoko and the twins to Kisuma where he helps her file a case and book an appointment
with the D.O. They are told to return in three days’ time.
Chapter 12
The D.O. listens to Akoko’s grievances through an interpreter and he agrees to make his own investigations. After a
month, a party is sent from Kisuma to carry out an investigation into Akoko’s allegations.
The party reports to the visiting D.C. that what Akoko had alleged was true. The D.C. consults with his council of
elders and he decided to send a contingent of askaris to Sakwa to, forcefully, remove Chief Otieno from power.
Otieno is forced to return all he had grabbed from Akoko and his seat is given to a council of elders, to elect one of
them, to rule the village until the rightful owner – Owuor – comes of age.
The journey to Kisuma had helped Akoko realize that the hereditary Chief system would not last and she decides to
pack her belongings and head back to Yimbo where she stays with her brother, Oloo.
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PART 2
THE ART OF GIVING
Chapter 1
Nyabera gives birth to a baby girl named Obura. The sickly child is later renamed Awiti (meaning, the one who had
been thrown away) to confuse evil spirits. When Awiti turns three, Nyabera gets another miscarriage that is followed
by the death of her husband – Okumu.
Nyabera is married again to Okumu’s second cousin as the ‘tero’ custom demands. The couple gets two children who
both die of sickle cell disease. Kwach is not a good husband as he abdicates his duties to her and is unfaithful.
Nyabera is bitter about her marriage and decides to join a Christian mission in Aluor. She leaves her daughter in the
hands of Akoko and follows her faith.
Chapter 2
Nyabera is accepted in Aluor Mission and she starts her catechism after listening to the story of Christ. She is shown
where to build a house which is lonely but as the daughter of Akoko, she is not deterred.
Nyabera continues with her learning until she gets baptized. She decides to go back to Yimbo to get her daughter,
nephew and mother to join her in Gem. Although Nyabera is comfortable with the church’s teachings, its law on
marriage troubles her. As a widow, she longs for a husband and children which the church does not allow but ‘chik’
does.
Chapter 3
Nyabera, who is now known as ‘Maria’ after the baptism, goes back home to get her mother, daughter and nephew.
Akoko accepts to follow her daughter back to Gem amidst Oloo’s protests.
With a packed meal of Ugali, sour milk and a pot of ghee, Akoko, Maria, Awiti and Owuor embark on the journey
to Aluor mission where they arrive well after dark.
Chapter 4
The two women and the children settle well in Aluor Mission. Akoko and the children enroll for catechism and
reading classes. Akoko takes advantage of the free land to cultivate food for the family. Oloo sends his twin sons to
take two cows and four goats to his sister. While they are there, they put up granaries for her.
After finishing her catechism class, Akoko gets baptized as Veronica. Maria goes back to her husband for without
giving any explanation and Akoko stays with the children. The catechist notices Akoko’s industriousness and seeks
her advice whenever he can. He also puts up a house, for her, near the church.
Owuor has a calling to priesthood but is afraid of telling his grandmother since he is the Chief-in-waiting. He tells
Awiti this and she advices him to wait for Nyabera to come back before he can break the news to Akoko.
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Chapter 5
Nyabera returns and is well received by the children. She appears frail and weather-beaten. She narrates to Akoko
how she had remarried and given birth to a baby boy who died. Akoko comforts her by encouraging her to seek God’s
guidance.
Nyabera finds consolation after confessing to the father and listening to Owuor’s readings from the Bible.
Owuor broaches the subject of priesthood to Nyabera who encourages her to tell Akoko. Akoko, on the other hand,
understands Owuor’s desires and tells him to follow his dream. She realizes the changing times and hereditary
chiefdom as a dying institution. Akoko requests Owuor to take up his grandfather’s name – Kembo. Peter Owuor
Kembo joins St. Paul’s Seminary where he hopes to become a Father and, later, a Bishop.
Chapter 6
Owuor joins the seminary while Awiti is enrolled in a primary school where she is one of only two girls in a class of
thirty-two boys. The other girl drops out in the second year and Awiti is alone in a class of boys. She is determined
to do well and her good performance in school makes her the subject of ridicule from people who do not see the value
of educating a girl.
Awiti emerges the best out of only five who pass the final exams and is invited to join a teacher training college.
Maria is reluctant to let her daughter join college but Akoko admonishes her for refusing to allow her child to pursue
her dream. Akoko promises Awiti that a decision will soon be made on whether she will join the college.
Chapter 7
Awiti turns twenty and she is escorted to her new college by Father Thomas. In college, she is determined to succeed
and does not entertain advances from her male college mates. She keeps to herself and even earns nicknames such
as, ‘the nun’, ‘virgin Mary’ and ‘church mouse’ because of her strict moral stand.
On one of her exeat days, she comes across an ex-soldier called Mark Anthony Sigu. She tries to ignore him, at first,
but his sense of humour and manners prove too much for her.
Chapter 8
Elizabeth Awiti and Mark Sigu’s relationship develops into a six-month courtship. Elizabeth graduates from college
and she is posted to her former primary school where she is on a fifty-shilling salary.
Elizabeth informs her family about Mark. Maria reprimands her for not knowing his parents but Akoko reminds her
that the world is changing.
A meeting is arranged for Mark to visit them for his proposal. Mark comes with his relatives while Elizabeth invites
Peter Owuor Kembo, Opiyo, Odongo and her uncle from Sakwa.
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The two groups agree on a token of appreciation from Mark’s family – which is less than they had expected. Akoko
has a long chat with his future son-in-law and feels satisfied that she has found another son from the army that took
away her first one.
Akoko dies peacefully in her sleep with the knowledge that her family’s future is in safe hands. Through Elizabeth
and Mark, the river will continue to flow with her as the source.
Chapter 9
Akoko’s funeral is celebrated by two priests – one being Owuor Kembo – and six deacons. Her death is a big blow
to Nyabera and Elizabeth. Nyabera copes with it better since she had buried a husband and six children of her own.
Elizabeth is devastated and she reacts angrily when Mark tries to console her. Owuor Kembo intervenes and
apologizes to Mark on her behalf. Maria sees the sorry state of her daughter and realizes that it is her duty to comfort
her just as she had been comforted by Akoko after Obura’s death. Awiti, finally, calms down after listening to her
mother’s stories about Akoko.
Chapter 10
Elizabeth’s wedding is postponed twice to give Owuor Kembo time to graduate and come to conduct the wedding.
The two get married and move to Nakuru where Mark has received a job offer.
One day, Elizabeth wakes up feeling unwell. She vomits and feels better. Mark suspects that it might be a case of
malaria. In the evening, he comes with malaria tablets which Elizabeth swallows. At night, her condition worsens
and she has to be rushed to hospital. The doctor informs them that Elizabeth is pregnant and that the drugs have
caused her to haemorrhage. The pregnancy cannot be saved and Mark is too devastated to tell his wife that they have
lost a set of twins.
The couple tries to conceive again, but this time it’s not easy. Mark’s mother-in-law comes to question his son over
the lack of children. Mark stands his ground and defends his wife and warns the mother never to interfere with their
lives.
Thankfully, Elizabeth conceives again and this time they are careful not to lose the baby which they await with a lot
of joy and excitement.
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PART 3 – Love and Life
Chapter 1
Elizabeth gives birth to twins – Vera and Becky. While Vera is forceful and develops rapidly, Becky is slow but
beautiful and vivacious.
The country is experiencing turbulent times and a state of emergency in Kenya forces Elizabeth to relocate to Aluor
for the safety of her twins and a newly born boy. Mark’s mother is unhappy with Elizabeth’s decision to go back to
Aluor with the children but Mark defends her.
Due to loneliness, Mark finds himself in an affair which ends when the girl lies that she is pregnant. Mark resolves
to go to Aluor to see his family.
At Aluor, he is received well by the children but Elizabeth castigates him for deliberately ignoring her letters. She
decides to go back with him to Nakuru which he accepts. Though the neighbours report Mark’s infidelity to her,
Elizabeth chooses to keep quiet about it.
Chapter 2
Kenya gets her independence and many jobs are available for Africans. Mark pursues further education and in 1967
is promoted to Manager.
The family expands to seven with the addition of Tony, a set of twins (Opiyo and Odongo) and Mary. Mark is very
helpful in the house unlike other men. Vera is brilliant at school and becomes School Captain – the first girl to do so.
Becky does not exert herself and performs averagely. She is also selfish, jealous and hates her sister Vera.
The two girls sit for their CPE exams and Vera secures a place in a national school while Becky can only be admitted
to a district school. Ironically, Vera forfeits her place in the national school to join Becky at Riverside High School.
Chapter 3
The boys’ adventures in the river almost turn tragic when Odongo nearly drowns. The twins reveal the incident to
their parents and severe punishment is meted on Aoro and Tony. They are sent to bed without dinner but sneak into
the kitchen late at night. Elizabeth catches them in the act and serves them.
One night, Tony falls ill and is taken to hospital where he is diagnosed with acute appendicitis. He is admitted and
operated on. Aoro and Vera are shocked while Becky is not bothered. Tony’s case triggers Aoro’s interest in medicine.
Chapter 4
Aoro carefully observes Tony’s wound from the operation and tries to operate on a frog. He is impressed by his work
when the frog leaps away after the ‘operation’.
Father Peter visits the family and announces that he is to be made a Bishop. He develops a special friendship with
Tony. Although Mark is Catholic, he is not as devoted as Elizabeth. He is, therefore, reluctant to let one of his sons
become a priest.
Meanwhile, at the age of seventy, Maria is lonely. The twins are sent to Aluor to keep her company and to learn some
responsibility.
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Aoro performs well at CPE and joins one of the best schools in the country. He is excited to be finally ‘free’ from his
parents’ vigilance. At school, he has a poor discipline record and is sent home on suspension. Mark sends him out to
fend for himself and gives him one month to vacate the house. He stays for thirty six hours without food. He regrets
his actions, apologizes and promises never to misbehave again. He is taken back to school.
Chapter 5
Elizabeth’s difficult pregnancy with the last born is highlighted. Both mother and child are in danger and she is
referred to a national hospital. She stays at the hospital for one and a half months and has to have induced labour.
The baby – whom she names after her mother – is skinny and is not expected to survive. The girl, however, lives and
becomes healthy. She also becomes Mark’s favourite child.
Vera, Becky and Tony sit for their national exams that year. The relationship between Vera and Becky deteriorates
to a point where they trade insults and almost exchange blows. Their mother steps in the room just in time to separate
them.
Chapter 6
The examination results are out and the children excel. Vera is admitted to a national school for her ‘A’ Level while
Tony gets thirty six points and joins Aoro’s school. Becky, on the other hand, does well enough, but wants to get a
job as an air hostess. Mark insists that she must continue with her studies.
Mark receives a telegram from Aluor that Nyabera is sick. He drives with Elizabeth to Aluor, where they find that
Nyabera has had a stroke. Elizabeth stays with her mother for the night but early the following day, she succumbs to
her illness.
The burial of Maria is conducted by father Thomas and she is laid to rest beside her mother, Akoko. This marks the
end of an era in the family. The river that had once almost dried is now rejuvenated by Elizabeth.
Chapter 7
After the death of Maria, the twins are back at home and are enrolled in school. The Sigus expect to have five
candidates sitting for national examinations the following year.
Vera grows into an attractive mature girl and Becky is jealous of her. Boys start taking interest in Vera but Mark is
protective of her girls.
Tommy, a university student, is persistent and invites Vera to a movie. Vera shocks everyone in the family when she
gathers the courage to ask her father for permission to go out with Tommy. Mark and Elizabeth agree to accept the
request.
Aoro is focused in his studies and hopes to study medicine. Father Owuor is now Bishop of Kisumu. The examination
results are out. Aoro and Vera perform excellently while Becky’s performance is dismal. One of the twins – Odongo
– does not do well and has to repeat. Becky chooses to run away to Nairobi where she hopes to become an air hostess.
Chapter 8
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Vera joins university and finds that life is full of freedom. The women’s hall of residence – “The Box” – is the hunting
ground for all. There are two types of girls: The ‘Mercedes’ type associates with the rich while the ‘clipboard’ type
associate with fellow poor students.
Tommy and Vera become good friends and he proposes to her. Vera rejects Tommy’s proposal saying that she does
not want commitment. In her loneliness and confusion, Vera decides to go and look for her sister, Becky.
The two girls meet at the airport and decide to go to Becky’s flat. They discuss about their lives and in the end, Vera
points out that Becky has not changed much after all.
Chapter 9
Vera pays Becky a visit at her residence. She is mesmerized by her affluence. They are joined by Becky’s fiancé,
John Courtney, a Canadian pilot.
Vera persuades Becky to take Courtney to Nakuru to meet their parents. Becky is, however, fearful that they will
reject him and that she has never felt part of that family.
Courtney comes back from the other room and supports Vera’s idea. Becky, finally, accepts to go to Nakuru.
Chapter 10
Vera, who is now a second year student at the university, is assigned a roommate called Mary-Ann. The two get along
very well. Vera talks with her about her break-up with Tommy and her strained relationship with her sister, Becky.
After reading a book titled, “East Eden” by John Steinbeck, she starts to question her Christian faith which she realizes
she has been practicing as a routine.
The following Saturday, Mary-Ann invites Vera to a ‘recollection’ session with an Opus Dei priest. After the service,
she feels peaceful.
Vera chooses a new path in faith as she reads books given to her by Mary-Ann. She seeks more enlightenment and
she decides to change her life – just as her grandmother Akoko had done many years ago. She devotes herself to
religion.
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PART 4 – Variable Winds
Chapter 1
Aoro joins medical school where he meets Wandia. In the Anatomy class, Aoro and Wandia are grouped together with four other
students. They are given a cadaver which they will dissect throughout the course.
Aoro and Wandia are competitive and when the final exams are out, Wandia beats Aoro by a single point. Aoro, though disappointed,
offers to buy Wandia a drink. Aoro is attracted to Wandia despite her coming from a different ethnic community. Wandia declines to
reveal her address to him but Aoro does not give up – after all, he is the great-grandson of Akoko, who never gave up.
Chapter 2
Both Aoro and Wandia are interns in two different hospitals. While Wandia is in Machakos, Aoro is in Nairobi and it is difficult for
the two to meet – even on weekends. The two have only managed to get one day in a year to themselves, when their off-days coincided.
After a thirty-hour shift, Aoro manages to get an hour’s sleep but is awakened only thirty minutes later by Wandia, who is on her way
to Murang’a to see her ailing mother. The two enjoy each other’s company and he sees her off at the bus stop after promising to visit
her mother as soon as his internship was over.
Chapter 3
Wandia sees her mother at the hospital where she is admitted. She has an ulcer on her leg in addition to being diabetic. She is happy
to see her and shows her off to the nurses. Wandia informs her mother about Aoro’s intended visit.
In the evening, Wandia goes to her sister, Esther, to spend the night. Wandia enjoys the company of her sister’s children. The sisters
talk about their brother, Timothy, who is promiscuous and the new disease – AIDS. Michael, Esther’s husband, a feared and respected
headmaster, comes in and welcomes Wandia.
Before sleeping, the sister, discuss about Aoro. While Esther is fearful that their marriage will suffer because of their ethnic differences,
Wandia is confident that she can handle it.
Chapter 4
Aoro takes Wandia to Nakuru to meet his parents. This is after they have already visited Wandia’s family. Aoro had already written
to his father informing him of Wandia’s visit.
Elizabeth is excited about the chance to meet Wandia. Mark, on the other hand, is skeptical about Aoro choosing to marry someone
who is not Luo. Father and son talk for long. In the end, Mark is surprised to learn that Wandia’s parents have no desire for a bride
price. Mark realizes that his view of the Kikuyu - as people who love money - may not be true.
Elizabeth and Wandia, on the other hand, get along well in the kitchen. Elizabeth tells her about Vera and Akoko. The two enjoy each
other’s company as they prepare tea. Later, they all sit down for a cup of tea.
Chapter 5
Aoro marries Wandia and they go for their honeymoon in Malindi – which is organized by Vera. Wandia manages to get a transfer to
Nairobi to join her husband. Wandia and Vera become good great friends and Vera tells her about her twin sister Becky.
Becky and John Courtney divorce because of Becky’s unfaithfulness. She becomes promiscuous and changes men like clothes. Her
children suffer and become confused despite going to the best schools. Vera advices Becky to take the children to Nakuru but Becky
insults her instead.
Vera and Wandia discuss the subject of Becky and it turns out that Becky could be infected with the dreaded AIDS. While the two
women are talking about Aoro, Wandia who is pregnant, experiences her first labour pains.
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Chapter 6
The Aoros are blessed with a set of twins – Daniel and Lisa. However, Daniel is diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. The revelation
comes as a shock to the parents. Daniel also suffers from a mild case of leukemia.
Becky develops full blown AIDS and the Aoros adopt her two children. She dies a bitter person but leaves behind a huge insurance
for the children and an estate that amazes everyone. In her will, Becky appoints Vera as her children’s guardian.
Wandia and Aoro are not religious but Daniel’s condition brings Wandia closer to Christianity. She prays to God to cure her son
whom she loves dearly.
Chapter 7
Wandia joins university to become a lecturer after her second degree. She then receives a scholarship to study haematology at John
Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She finds it difficult to leave her home and children. The couple decides to bring in Mary
– Aoro’s youngest sister – to come live with them.
At the end of the term, the children present their report forms and all are doing well except Daniel because of his condition. While
Jonny, is attached to Wandia, Alicia, who is now fifteen, loves Vera.
Before leaving, Wandia visits her mother-in-law where Aoro drives her. They meet the aged parents together with Odongo, who is
now a farm manager. They are joined by Opiyo and his wife Edna and Father Tony. Wandia talks to Elizabeth about her planned
departure which she (Elizabeth) supports.
Tony commends Wandia and asks Aoro to pay Uncle Peter a visit with the children. Aoro agrees and also compares Wandia with the
great Akoko.
Chapter 8
Wandia’s family and friends watch as she is awarded her doctorate degree – the highest accolade possible in medical studies. She is
now Professor Wandia Sigu.
After the ceremony, the whole family goes to celebrate at Aoro’s homestead. Everyone, including Aoro’s siblings and their children;
Wandia’s siblings and their children; and their parents, is present.
Elizabeth watches the whole gathering from a window upstairs and observes that, “the river has continued to flow” and there is hope
that it will not dry.
On the way back to Nakuru, Elizabeth falls sick and is rushed to hospital where she is declared dead on arrival. Many come to mourn
‘the teacher’. Her husband, Mark, dies only a year later.
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Major themes in ‘The River and the Source”
Some of the major thematic concerns that Margaret Ogola tackles in the text include:

Loss and suffering

Family relations

Gender relations

Conflicts

Love and friendship

Change

Feminism

Religion

Education

Customs and Traditions
Loss and Suffering
Loss and suffering co-exist alongside each other in The River and the Source. Major characters such as Akoko,
Nyabera, Owuor Kembo, Elizabeth Awiti, Vera, Becky, Aoro and Wandia all experience happy moments as well as
sad times.
Akoko marriage to Owuor Kembo is happy at first; however, things turn for the worst when she is does not conceives
as often as her mother-in- law wants. The mother-in-law accuses her of bewitching her son. Akoko feels insulted and
abandons her matrimonial home to go back to Yimbo.
Akoko suffers more misery when she loses her first born son – Obura in the First World War (ref. p.52-62). She cries
for months and still remembers that loss many years later. To make matters worse, Owang’ Sino, the young Chief
and last born to Akoko also dies. His death creates a vacuum on the Chiefdom that is temporarily filled by Otieno –
Owuor’s younger brother.
Akoko’s suffering takes a different turn when Otieno becomes Caretaker-Chief and his late brother’s wealth. When
the situation becomes unbearable, Akoko resolves to seek help from the white man in Kisumu. She eventually
manages to save some of her cattle and decides to go back to Yimbo to live as a ‘migogo’.
Nyabera’s suffering starts when she is a teenager after the loss of her elder brother – Obura (p.63). When her younger
brother, Owang’ Sino also dies, Nyabera wonders, “what has mother ever done to deserve this?” (p.71)
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Nyabera’s losses come in droves. She loses her first, second and third pregnancy and then, “real disaster struck. Her
husband went down with fever… dies within three days of onset of illness (p.98). Akoko consoles her daughter after
each loss and Nyabera gathers the strength to go on, “I must fight. I cannot give up! I must! I must!” (p.99)
Nyabera’s losses and suffering continue even in her second marriage to Ogoma Kwach. She loses her first two
children and the jodongo orders Kwach to go back to his first wife whom he had neglected. This leaves Nyabera sad
and extremely bitter, “for there was…not the comfort of a husband and children around her knees.” (p.100)
It is because of the losses and suffering that Nyabera undergoes that she eventually turns to the church for comfort
and healing. She goes to Aluor Mission, where she finds peace and solace in her heart. Later, she takes her mother,
daughter and nephew to the mission to live with her.
After a short while, Nyabera leaves the mission to go back to live with Ogoma Kwach, whose wife had recently died.
Tragedy befalls their relationship as they lose another child – a son. Things become worse when it is clear that Kwach
is only interested in Nyabera’s wealth and he starts to courtship to marry another wife. Nyabera undergoes mental
and spiritual torture and when she returns to Aluor, she asks for forgiveness from her mother and from God.
Nyabera also suffers emotionally when Awiti passes her exams and is admitted to the Teacher Training College. She
felt, “her heart thumping away in her chest…she knew she would die.” (p.130-131)
Both Nyabera and Awiti suffer greatly after the loss of Akoko. Nyabera consoles her daughter the same way Akoko
done to her many times before. Awiti finds it difficult to accept Akoko’s death. Nyabera, on the other hand, is used
to suffering and finds Akoko’s death painful but bearable.
Later generations also undergo the pain of suffering and losses. For instance, Elizabeth and Mark are greatly disturbed
by Becky’s behaviour. Even as a young girl, Elizabeth is worried about her selfishness and vanity. Her immoral
behaviour and painful death causes a lot of pain in her parents and siblings, especially, Vera.
Your Task:
How do the following characters experience loss and suffering?

Elizabeth Awiti

Aoro and Wandia

Owuor Kembo

Peter Owuor Kembo

Jonny and Alicia
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Family Relations
These are issues that family members face in their day to day interactions with each other. The text addresses relations
between siblings, parents and their children, married couples and even extended family relatives.
Relations between parents and their children are evident in the family of Chief Odero Gogni who loves his
daughter Akoko to the extent of being over-protective of her. He wants the best for his daughter hence turns down 13
suitors. He goes to the extent of asking for a herd of thirty cattle – more than twice the normal bride price.
Nyabera shows love for her daughter and mother by taking them to the Aluro mission to stay with her. Nyabera’s
love for her daughter is further evident when she is afraid of letting her go to college. She comforts her when Akoko
dies and becomes lonely when Awiti leaves to stay with Mark in Nakuru.
The Sigu’s love their children and provide for their needs at home and at school. The children are well educated
morally and trained on responsibility. When Vera asks for permission to go out, Mark fears for her safety. When
Becky runs off to the city, her parents are concerned for her wellbeing. When Aoro presents Wandia as his fiancée,
Mark is fearful about his son’s happiness but accepts to give him the freedom to choose his own wife.
Sibling relations are also highlighted in the text. Akoko has a close relationship with her elder brother Oloo. When
she travels to Kisumu, she leaves her grandson in his custody. Oloo, on the other hand, sends his twin sons – Opiyo
and Odongo - to accompany her on the journey. Oloo also welcomes Akoko into his house when she becomes a
‘migogo’ and leaves her matrimonial home.
Vera loves her sister Becky to the point that she gives up her place in a national school to join her in a district school.
Their relationship suffers when Vera realizes that Becky is selfish and uncaring for anyone but herself.
The love between Aoro and Tony is mutual and Tony works hard in school to join Aoro’s school.
Relationships between couples in marriage are also explored. Chief Owuor shows a lot of love for his wife Akoko
to the extent that his mother thinks her son is bewitched. Akoko leaves her matrimonial home when she hears of the
bewitchment allegations. The marriage is salvaged after a meeting by representatives from Yimbo and Sakwa.
Mark and Elizabeth’s marriage is tested when Mark has an illicit affair with a girl. Even though Elizabeth hears about
it, she chooses to keep quiet for the sake of the marriage.
Becky and John Courtney’s marriage ends in divorce after Becky becomes unfaithful.
Despite coming from different tribes, Aoro and Wandia have a successful marriage which is also tested when they
give birth to Daniel, who suffers from Down’s syndrome.
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Extended family relations are evident throughout the text. When Mark visits Awiti’s home, he comes with
members of his extended family. Akoko also sends for her nephew twins and Nyabera’s brother in law. Awiti has to
wait for her cousin, Father Owuor Kembo, to come and conduct their wedding.
Aoro’s and wandia’s family are seen to co-exist in love and friendship. The Aoro’s adopt Becky’s children –Alicia
and Johny and even consider them their own. “The Courtney children had become so much part of the family that
Wandia never dreamed of excluding them from her calculations” (pg 291)
Your Task:
How can you describe the relationship between:

Becky and her children?

Wandia and her mother?

Elizabeth and Wandia?

Akoko and her mother-in-law?

Elizabeth and her mother-in-law?
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Feminism and the Role of Women in Society
Feminism is the belief that women should have equal rights as men in society. The society in The River and the
Source is patriarchal (in favour of boys/men). We are told that:”If it was hard for a boy to get an education – it was
well nigh impossible for a girl. The purpose of female existence was marriage and child bearing.”(P.129) this shows
a disregard for women in society.
Women were expected to be submissive to men. Akoko becomes the first woman to challenge not only a man but
a chief. Akoko’s resists Otieno’s attempts to squander her wealth by reporting him to the D.C in Kisumu. She even
dares him to fight her. When Otieno threatens to assault her she looks him in the eyes and says, ‘just you dare!’(pg
37)
Gender inequality is seen when out of a class of thirty four, there are only two girls - one of whom is Awiti. The
other girl gets married at the age of sixteen. It’s only through Akoko’s determination that Awiti is saved from such
fate. Awiti is further seen to be exceptional as she maintains first position hence bringing out the success of women
despite all odds. She thus wins the envy, admiration and even disapproval by some. Wandia beats all her classmates
to emerge top in Anatomy. She goes on to become the first woman to acquire a PhD in Medicine.
Women play an important role in bringing up children. As a teacher Awiti manages the children back at Aluor
during the emergency without Mark. Awiti is brought up without a father and she is saved from the traditional
practices of marriage at seventeen through “the pioneering and daring spirit of her grandmother and mother.” (pg
129) Wandia’s mother has single-handedly managed to educate all her children. She is very proud of her daughter,
Wandia, who becomes a doctor.
Women play the role of giving birth to new generations. This leads to the continuity of ‘the river’. Akoko’s male
children die with only Nyabera surviving. Despite not getting a son, Nyabera gets grandchildren through her only
surviving child – Awiti.
Women empowerment and feminism continues and gathers momentum through the different generations. Wandia’s
generation sees women taking up positions of power. For example, Wandia becomes Professor and is appointed the
Chairperson of the Department of Pathology in the University of Nairobi’s School of Medicine.
Your task:
From the text, identify other roles played by women in society.
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Conflict
There are several instances of conflict in the text. Conflict occurs between husbands and wives in marriage, between
siblings, between members of the extended family, between children and their parents as well as political conflicts.
Conflict in marriage is first evident in the marriage of Akoko and Owuor Kembo. This occurs when Nyar
Asembo accuses her of casting a spell on her son not to marry another wife. She also complains that Akoko is not
bearing enough children in light of the huge bride price paid for her. This conflict is resolved by the Jodong’o after a
hearing.
Conflict is also seen in the marriage between Elizabeth Awiti and Mark Sigu. This is over her inability to conceive
after the miscarriage. She even accuses mark of having given her chloroquin to deliberately make her sterile. The
issue is compounded by Mark’s mother who demands an explanation for Elizabeth’s lack of children. This creates so
much tension and mark has to take Elizabeth’s side to salvage the situation.
Becky’s promiscuity leads to the break-up of their marriage with John Courtney. It is said that she exchanged men
like clothes, prompting John to divorce her.
Conflict is also seen among siblings. Vera and Becky’s relationship deteriorates to a point of physically fighting
when they are preparing for their exams. It takes the intervention of Elizabeth to separate the two girls. Aoro and
Tony vow not to take the twins to their adventures after they reveal Odongo’s near death experience. Otieno is jealous
of his brother’s family and when Owuor Kembo dies, he takes advantage of the situation by plundering his wealth.
There is conflict between members of the extended family when Akoko’s relatives at Yimbo hear that their
counterparts from Seme had accused their daughter of bewitchment. Such an accusation is deemed so serious that the
Jodong’o is involved. Akoko does not get along with her mother-in-law the same way her granddaughter Awiti finds
it difficult to maintain a cordial relationship with Mark’s mother who interferes in their marriage.
Your task:

Is there conflict in Aoro and Wandia’s marriage? If so, what are the main issues in the conflict?

Identify the political conflicts in the text.

Identify the various instances of conflict between parents and their children.
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Religion
There are aspects of both traditional religion and Christianity in the novel. In the traditional religion, we are told that
the people believed in Were the god of the eye of the rising sun and ancestral spirits. They made sacrifices and poured
libations. Akoko even mentions that it is Were who forms children in ones womb. They even believed that the spirits
of the departed influenced the living so much. They could cause dreams to pregnant mothers or relatives to guide in
the naming of the young ones.
With the coming of missionaries, Christianity is introduced Nyabera is attracted to this new religion and is further
fascinated by various characters in the bible, the suffering of Jesus and baptism through which she is named Maria.
Akoko later joins Maria in the new religion with the children too where Awiti becomes Sacristan assisting nuns and
Owuor becoming an altar boy. Owuor later becomes a priest and ascends to bishop. This even influences Tony Sigu
who becomes a priest.
Awiti raises her family in religious grounds. This even sees her daughter Vera becoming a non-marrying member of
the Opus Dei.
Religion impacts on the traditional aspects of life for the people and we see so much changing. Traditionally Akoko
was supposed to be buried in her husband’s ancestral home at the left of the entrance but due to her change to
Christianity she is buried as a Christian in a church cemetery. Furthermore, marriage rites change and with the advent
of Christianity has introduced church weddings as seen in the Christian church wedding between Mark and Elizabeth
presided by father Peter. Vera further becomes an unmarried member of Opus Dei which would not have been
accepted traditionally.
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Death
Throughout the plot of the book, the writer has eliminated many characters through death some of who never even
get a chance to live one day.
Akoko’s son Obura Kembo, died at war in Tanganyika. He as well as Ambere K’ongoro died in the First World War
between the Jo-Ingereza and Jo-jerman. The village went into mourning for the chief’s son. The mourning was
worsened by the fact that there was no body to morn over and to bury. Pg 55 “The names of the three are Oura
KEmbo, Ambere K’ongoso, and Nyaroche Silwal. They went to fight the Jo-Jerman in a place called Tanganyika.....of
the three, only Nyaroche Silwal survived and he is......”
Tragedy befalls Akoko again. First, she had to contend with the death of her son Obura. Later her husband, Chief
Owuor Kembo passes on after ailing for a long time since his son’s death. Pg 62 ‘......but before the bride price could
be paid the ailing chief Owour Kembo died.....”
Akoko’s other son Owang Sino, dies after chocking on a fish bone after having a meal of fish and Ugali. Akoko’s
daughter, Nyabera faces several misfortunes as well. Her entire life seems one big disaster. Her other tow sons die
during an outbreak of measles. She gets pregnant again when Awiti is three years old but she miscarriges. The ral
disaster is when her husband, Okumu dies after complaining of severe headache, pain and stiffness in the neck and
he cannot also retain any food.
After being inherited by a second cousin to her husband, Ogoma Kwachm Nyabera gets toe children who again, die
of sickle cell disease. After returning to the smae man, hoping a friendship would grow, she gets a baby boy who like
all the others before him die. The man’s wife is also said to have died.
Akoko dies of old age peacefully in her sleep late at night, that dark hour just before dawn. Pg 140 “That night she
died quietly on her pallet in the corner.....”
As a result of state of emergency, the country is becoming more and more dangerous even for ordinary people. As a
result of the war between the Mau Mau freedom fighters and the white johnies. Death could arrive without warning.
Things worsened day by day and lorries carrying dead purpotely the mau mau were a common sight.
Maria Nyabera, also dies after she had a stroke and was in a coma before her death early one morning. Pg 190, “At
seven O’clock, just before the doctore came for his rounds, Maria Nyabeta daughter of Chief Owour Kembo and
Akoko Obanda and wife to Okumu Angolo, breathed her last with her only daughter at her bed side.” Her
granddaughter, Becky dies of AIDS. Nyabera’s daughter, Elizabeth Awiti, similary dies after she ha problems with
breathing aged seventy.
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Love
The writer has dealt with different levels of love. For example;
i) Love between man and woman.
ii) The love between families and within families.
iii) The love for material, tangible things
iv) The love for oneself, the one that almost borders on self-centredness.
During Akoko’s marriage negotiations, the spokesman for the Jodongo of Sakwa, Aloo K’ Olima refers to their hosts
(elders of Yimbo) as ‘brothers’. This is a pointer to the good dak (neighbourliness) that existed between the two
groups as well as the great ‘wat’ (brotherhood) they shared.
Akoko was committed to the well being of her family. When the survival of the two year old Owuor through whom
her family could find continuity id threatened by Otieno, Akoko made an epic journey to Kisumu to petition the
colonial government (sirikal) to intercede on her behalf.
Akoko also loved her husband Owuor Kembo. When he dies, she mourned carrying it well into the village. Pg 6263. ‘She donned his monkey skin head dress that he had and his shield in the other. She sang dirges in his honour
with her powerful voice. She sang his famous courtship of her, the great honour he had accorded her throughout their
life together, the friendship that existed between them.”
Akoko instilled in her children and grandchildren a strong sense of loyalty to the family. This value of love and
loyalty in the family is seen in Sigu’s family. They (Mark and Elizabeth) work in unison to bring up their seven
children.
There also exists a relationship of love and care between Mark and Elizabeth. This is evident from the courtship the
two has at the beginning og a period of six months. “pg 132.....Their courtship went on in this gentle offhand manner,
but at the end of six months, they knew each other pretty well, at least she knew she liked him and he who impetuous
knew that he was he was in love and wanted to get married.’
It is also indicated in the book that Sigu family was a family full of love. Pg 162 “All in all, the Sigu family was a
happy one. There was money, but not too much and plenty of lovesimple and unpretentious.’118 | P a g e
There is also love between Wandia and her brother’s and sisters. “She and her brother and sisters had always been
very close, a closeness born of not just blood ties, but of many hardships faced together.’
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Wandia also enjoys a warm relationship with her two nephews and niece. “The other children arrived from school
and Wandia was lost in hug and demands for sweets and chocolates.
In a show of family unity, Wandia and Aoro adopt two children who were Becky’s. These are Alicia and Jonny
following Becky’s death.
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Change
In the novel, “The River and the Source’ nothing remains the same. The continous cyclic pattern of human life and
nature bedecked by numerous changes of both conscious and unconscious orientation. Through these changes, life
continous or events continue at different levels affected by changes. Consider these illustrations:Akoko is way ahead of her time and is appreciative of the need to embrace change early enough. The author says that
the clarity of vision and strength of character of Akoko could have been ‘a discomfiture to all men of all ages and she
was therefore never really have fitted in that, this or any other century (pg 142)
The coming of the Jorochere (whitemen) marked the first real threat to the formely tranquil and cohesive traditional
African society. A footloose wanderer called Ambere K’Ongoso brought stories of the white skinned people (pg 48).
Similarly Nyaroche came back with stories about pesa (money) pg 49.
The effect of the coming of the white man in relation to administration of justice, enforcement of law and order, mode
of dressing and language is now evident especially in Kisumu. The clerk at the D.O.’s office could speak the language
of the White man as well as his own. He wore a dazzling white shirt, a thin black tie and white shoes.
Opiyo and Odongo while accompanying their aunt Akoko to kisuma were dressed in skins covering only their loins
and Akoko was dressed in the tradition skin called “chieno.” This mode of dressing is contrasted with that of a passerby they met on their arrival in Kisumu who wore a pair of long shorts and a singlet. The said passer-by had also
attended mission school for one year. While in Kisuma, Akoko, Opiyo and Odongo are informed that Kisuma had
been renamed Kisumu by the whiteman.
The house belonging to Akoko’s host is an indicator of changes taking place in the society. His house was a variation
of the traditional hut since it had square windows made of wood and a neat wooden door, all painted bright green.
Also the buildings in Kisumu looked large and most had white walls and red roofs. Others had tin wall.
Akoko’s host in Kisumu asvises Opiyo and Odongo to leave their weapons at home sincepeople were now prohibited
from carrying weapons since the ‘Sirikal’ had ‘askaris’ who offered protection to everyone and kept the peace.
The white DC in Kisuma listens to Akoko’s position and rules in her favour. A contingent of ‘Askaris’ is dispatched
to the village to forcibly remove Otieno from his position as chief. He is also made to return all property he had
grabbed form his sister-in-law and his grand nephew. This episode shows that the influence of the ‘Jodongo’ in the
administration of justice is gradually waning and in its place is the white man’s administrative structures. In fact the
author acknowledges this reality when she says “In spite of the DC’s decision, it was only a matter of time before the
hereditary chiefdoms were done away with totally. It was a changing world. (pg 93)
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Christianity is gradually taking root. After being baptized, Nyabera acquires a new name, Maria. (pg 110) By agreeing
to accompany Nyabera to Gem (mission of Aluor, AKoko has made the decision to move from one life to another.
her pioneering and daring spirit enabled her daughter Awiti to acquire education.
By acquiring formal education, Awiti is able to disentangle herself from the yoke of traditions and customs of her
people pertaining to the role of women. This conservative mind set of Awiti’s people is evident in the statement, “The
purpose of female existence was marriage and child bearing.” According to the community, it was superfluous to
educate girls.
Awiti’s desire to acquire education was made possible through the pioneering and daring spirit her grandmother and
mother had (pg 129)
The impact of formal education is evident in Mark Sigu’s ability to speak fluently in perfect English. During his
encounter with Elizabeth he tells her that he went to school in St. Mary’s Yala and was conscripted into the army
while job hunting in Nairobi. The advent of formal employment is a result of formal education. (pg 137) While
conversing with Elizabeth, Mark Sigu switches to a combination of English and vernacular-a common manner of
speech is an emerging bilingual and tri-lingual Africa.
Money was replacing barter trade as a tool of exchange of goods and services. Awiti successfully sat her examination
at the teacher training college and received her teacher’s certificate. She is then posted back to her old school. She
earns a salary of fifty shillings a month. Maria initially opposes the idea of her daughter accepting the invitation to
join the teacher training college but Akoko prevails upon her.
When Awiti informs her mother that she does not know the names of Mark’s parents, an appaled Maria laments,
“What do you mean you don’t know! How can you even consider having friendship with a man whose roots and
antecedents you don’t know?” Contrary to dictates of ‘Chik’, Elizabeth’s re;atives did not send a ‘Jawangyo’ (spy)
to check out Mark Sigu’s background. Akoko reasons with Maria by telling her, “Accept it Maria, the world is
changing.” (pg 143)
Akoko has changed the concept of bride price. Contray to the expectations of Elizabeth’s suitors from Seme that a
heavy bride price was going to ne demanded for Elizabeth, no price is asked except for a token bull, two cows and
six goats. (Pg 148)
In a break from traditions, Akoko was not buried in her husband’s ancestral home to the left of the entrance to her
house but on the burial ground which the church had prepared. Mixed (inter-tribal) marriages have started to take
root. Elizabeth’s flexibility and accommodating nature is evident when she convinces her husband to allow their
daughter
Vera to accompany Tommy Muhambe, a twenty one year old young Luhya man studying veterinary medicine to the
movies. Becky’s husband (John Courtney) is a white man.
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Wandia’s sister (Esther) points out some of the challenges of inter tribal marriages that Wandia and Aoro may
experience. “For example few in-laws are endearing, but I can’t imagine anything more annoying than their talking
to their son, and your children in a language you cannot understand.”Aoro (a Luo) marries Wandia (a Kikuyu). Prior
to their marriage each introduces his/her would be spouse to his/her parents.
Change is also experienced in the arena of politics. Mention is made of the recently concluded multi-party elections
(1992) which marked the end of the single party rule. People hope that the new political dispensation would usher in
a new era. Instead it is characterized by confusion and cries of foul by the opposition and declarations of total
transparency by the winners. (pg 304)
Vera also changes form unbelieving Christian to a member of Opus Dei during her encounter with Maryanne.
The two epic journeys Akoko makes are quite significant as far as change is concerned. The first one is her journey
to Kisuma accompanied by Opiyo and Odongo. This story elevated Akoko too heroine and legendary status. It was
to be passed down from generation to generation. The second one is Akoko and Nyabera’s journey to ALuor. “The
children were the future and the future had to be protected.” The writer seems to suggest the merging of the past and
the present, “Akoko told them stories of the heroes of old and the history of baby Jesus.” Father Tony, AKoko’s
grandson says of Akoko, “To her life was like a river, flowing from eternity to eternity.
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Tradition and Customs
‘Chik’ (traditions) governed every aspect of the life of the people. It was the glue which held the people together thus
preventing disintegration of the fabric of the society and chaos.
The naming system in the community is quite elaborate. The children are given more than one name. For instance,
Chief Odero Gogni’s newly born child is first called Adoyo since she was born during the weeding and hoeing season.
The ancestral spirits usually send vivid dreams to the new born baby’s parents and in Adoyo’s case the child’s great
uncle, recently dead, a medicine man of great renown sent dreams to both the father and grandmother of the child,
resulting in the baby being named Obanda. Since the baby had an extremely powerful set of lungs she was given the
third name, Akoko. (pg 14)
Akoko’s son is first named Obura (the wise one). On the second night after birth the child’s father dreamt that Kembo
K’ Agina the late chief was handing him a baby boy from his right hand side; therefore the child was named Obura
Kembo.
When Adoyo was two weeks old, she suffered a prolonged bout of colic and screaming that went on all night. A
reason and solution is sought to the baby’s crying. Grandmother- Nyar Alego implores were to spare the child’s life.
She pleads with her departed mother (Achieng) to intercede. She also seems to imply that the child’s condition may
be attributed to Akelo, her departed sister who died childless. (pg 12 and 13)
It was a common practice for potential suitors to send spies (jowang’yo) to check out the background of a would be
bride. In the case of AKoko, they reported that she had impeccable antecedents. Chik (tradition) dictates that a chief
must be married. This is what prompted Owuor Kembo having inherited the chieftainship to get married at a relatively
young age of twenty years. (pg 19)
Marriage negotiations are conducted by elders, Chief Gogni chooses Aloo K’ Olima (an accomplished negotiator) as
their spokesman. They set a high bride price at thirty head which to everyone’s surprise Owuor Kembo promptly
accepts without bargaining. (pg 20)
The first wife’s house (Mikai’s house) holds the centre stage directly facing the gate. Chief Odero Gogni welcomes
the visitors (prospective suitors) and offers them brew (Kong’o) to be sipped through a long reed like straw after
libations are first offered to Were. (pg 19) Kong’o is once again drank after libations are poured to Were to signify
the culmination of successful marriage negotiations. Feasting then goes on into the late afternoon. (pg 25)
Traditions dictate that a woman should present a picture of demure shyness when she encountered her future husband
for the first time, but Akoko defied this practice by walking in measured steps, heald held high, hands at her side. (pg
24)
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Chik (traditions) did not allow suitors to spend the night at their in-laws homestead as witnessed in Akoko’s case.
The suitors had to leave when evening came. (pg 25)
A mock wrestling duel ensures between the young men from Sakwa and those who resit the efforts to spirit her away.
Eventually the men form Sakwa succed in grabbing Akoko and taking her to her matrimonial home. (pg 27)
Chik also dictated that men sent on a mission to deliver bride price must be granted hospitality without question. As
a result when the young men from Sakwa stopped for rest and food at the nearest homestead they were warmly
received. (pg 27)
According to ‘Chik’, if a man dies, his body lies in his mikai’s hut (first wife’s hut) before he is buried on the right
hand side of the hut. (pg38)
In order to pave way for elders to go to Yimbo following Akoko’s decision to go back to her parent’s home, four
young men are dispatched with a cow and an ox, a he-goat and two nanny goats. ‘Chik’, also dictates that whatever
the circumstances, a messenger should nit be victimized hence the young men are only received coldly. (pg 40)
The traditions of the community dictated that during deliberations centering around marriage disputes, both sides of
the story had to be heard before a decision a decision was arrived at. When the Jodongo (elders of Seme) went to
Yimbo to negotiate the return of Akoko (their wife), being a grave matter, kong’o was not allowed unless until an
agreement was reached.
Chiefdom is hereditary, Owuor tells his son, “do not take your duty practically my son, for the chiefdom has been in
my family for generations.”
The role of the chief is well outlined. His main job was to lead the council of Jodongo (elders) in their arbitration and
his final word was law. He was also a sort od priest who led the whole community in sacrifice and libation on public
worshipping days. He also led his people to battle, and if he is too old, his eldest son. (pg 57)
The community abhorred bloodshed. To them, bloodshed even in battle was a great taboo and required much
cleansing. (pg 58)
In compliance with the dicates of ‘Chik’ upon dleievering of the message that Obura had died at war in Tanganyika,
his mother Akoko came out of her son’s hut with his spear in her right and his colourful ox-hide skilled in her leftthe traditional salute of the fallen warrior. For four days the villagers wailed, sang dirges and the young men staged
mock battles. A banana trunk was symbolically buried in the absence of Obura’s body. (Pg 62)
Suicide was considered a great taboo and would bring a great curse among the people. (pg 62)
Upon the death of chief Odero Gogni, the clan went into sixty days mourning mandatory for a chief. AKoko also
mourned her husband, She sang dirges while donning his monkey skin headdress and brandishing his spear in one
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hand and his shield in the other. ‘Chik’ did not allow a mother to spend the night in her married daughter’s house.
When Akoko visits her daughter Nyabera before she leaves for Kisuma, Nyabera conducts her to her mother-in-law’s
house. (pg 78)
Akoko presents a petition to the white D.O. in Kisumu about her oppression in the hands of Otieno. Thereafter the
D.O sends his messengers to discreetly carry out investigations to ascertain the allegations. AKoko is summoned
back to Kisumu to appear before the D.C. The messenger informs the D.C that the chiefdom is hereditary and passes
from father to his eldest son. In the absence of a son, the closest male relative takes over. In case the son is not yet of
the age of marriage, the chiefdom is held in custody by the closest male relative with the council of elders. When the
rightful heir comes of age, he ransoms his seat with twelve head of cattle, the price of a bride, payable to the custodian.
In the event that he cannot raise the ransom his seat within two years of getting married, then the council of elders
may decide that the seat remains with the custodian. (pg 92)
Having already lost three children, a little ceremony id preformed to confuse evil spirits and enhance Nyabera’s son’s
chances of survival. (pg 92) ‘Chik’ dictated that a husband had to be found from close relatives of the dead man for
the widow. “His job being that of siring children to maintain the dead man’s name and to keep his widow from
wandering from man to man.” (pg 99) this is called ‘tero’. Therefore, Otieno, chief Owuor Kembo’s brother should
have married his brother’s widow, AKoko and become a guardian of the grandson and custodian not owner of the
chief’s stool.” (pg 87)
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Determination and Hard work
Throughout the novel, instances have been vividly brought to life of determined personalities trying to acheve on
thing or the other. For example:- Obura is determined to leave home and explore a whole new life outside that no
amount of persuasion not to do so deters him. He finally flees home to unknown destinations.
Akoko is determined to find intervention of the white man’s government in a bid to alleviate the atrocities committed
by her brother-in-law. To an unknown place, she sets off with hope that one day her people will be liberated.
Akoko is depicted as a hardworking and determined woman. AS a young woman she is known to rise early and till
her lands and uses the left over to barter in exchange for cattle, sheep and goats. (pg 35) Her hers is impressive and
her granaries were always full. (pg 66)
Akoko also tells her daughter that laziness opens the door for evil to rule one’s mind and body. She also tells her to
work tirelessly and that it is shame for an able bodied person to feed on sweat of others. (pg 86)
Nyabera is also determined to join the new faith. To the catechist at the mission, she says, “......teacher, I have come
a long way for this, I doubt there will be a going back. I have nothing to go back to.” (pg 97) She leaves behind her
daughter and mother to the unknown....Nyabera left the two dearest people to her with a heavy heart but determined
feet.......” (pg 103)
When they (Akoko and Nyabera together with the children) arrived at the mission, we are told that Akoko started
working hard to form some kind of base for the children. “........she had never begged for food and she was not about
to begin......she was untiring and unsparing of herself.” (pg 117)
Awiti also worked hard in school. She is given an admission to college. “......this letter comes from a head teacher of
a school called a college, where they teach teachers how to teach children. He says he is happy to offer me a place in
his college so that I an also learn how to be a teacher.” (pg 123)
Peter Owuor also worked very hard. Things in the seminary were not that east. It is said, “......And so he entered the
vigour and splendour life in the seminary. Sometimes when things were particularly tough, he would wonder whether
mere flesh and blood would survive it, but it never entered in his mind to leave.....he was no quitter. He would survive.
He would see it through.” (pg 127) Peter had learnt from his grandmother that once a job begun it had to be completed.
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LANGUAGE AND STYLE
These are techniques through which a writer communicates his/her themes. Style involves the use of artistic language or feature in a
literary work for effective communication of feelings, opinions and ideas.
DREAM MOTIF
This is the use a series of dreams within a text. Various dreams are presented and which carry with them various messages and
implications.
It is through dreams that the livings are connected to the dead. This is seen for instance through Akoko’s great uncle, Obanda who
sends a dream through her father and grandmother and the child is given a name.
Dreams also bring hope from the spirit world. This is seen through Maria’s dream where she dreams that Obura comes to her with a
beetle which turns into a beautiful bird, the colour of the sky. This is interpreted that the dead brother wants the unborn baby named
after him.
Dreams have also seen to influence characters action and hence build the plot. This is seen in Vera’s dream after breaking up with
Tommy where she feels herself moving so fast towards the horizon and hangs at the edge which falls into a bottomless abyss. This
is perhaps, an indication that she needs to take a grip over her life. She feels empty and hence accepts to join Anne to the
recollection to fill the emptiness in her life.
CONTRAST
This is when two people are presented in a manner that highlights their differences. Contrasting characters and incidents are used
severally in the novel.
There is a contrast between Owuor and Otieno. Owuor is hardworking whereas Otieno is very lazy. Otieno marries many wives i.e.
six whereas his brother Owuor only has one. We are further told that Otieno treats his wives like sluts whereas Owuor treats his like
a queen.
There is also a contrast in Akoko’s sons. Obura was an active and inquisitive son while his brother Owang Sino was very quiet and
reserved.
There is also a contrast between Vera and Becky. Vera is generous, loving and caring whereas Becky is egocentric and jealous. For
instance, Vera is concerned that she is not woken up when Aoro is taken ill but for Becky these are boring stories.
The marriage between Akoko and Owuor is contrasted to that between Mark and Elizabeth. In Akoko’s so much bride price was
paid but in Elizabeth’s she is given out almost for free.
a) LOCAL DIALECT
The author uses this style to give authenticity to the story. Examples of local dialect are; Jorochere (The white people), Were (The
god of Ramogi), Chik (The way of the people. The laws which govern behavior), Dwaro mara- (want mine), Dak (neighbourliness,
sirikal (colonial government) etc.
b) FORESHADOW / FOREBODING
This is a feeling or sign of an event set to happen in future.
When news comes that Obura had been seen boarding on to the white man’s vehicle, Akoko gets the feeling that she will never see
her son again. “A low moan from the direction of the main hut was heard, the first sound in three days……The fearful premonition
of doom that only a mother, closely connected as she is to the child, can sense , was in the air.” (pg 57). The family later receives the
news that Obura died in the white man’s war.
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Obura’s disappearance and death the author foreshadows more tragedy by saying, “The family had been touched by tragedy and
tragedy can sometimes be a habitual drunk who keeps coming back for more.” Obura’s death is then followed by Owour Kembo’s,
Owang’ Sino’s and Nyabera’s babies.
When Nyabera tells Akoko of her dream about Obura, Akoko tells her “I think your brother is trying to tell you something, to bring
a message of hope from the spirit world…….May Were find it in his heart to fill our hearts with laughter again. (pg76). This later
becomes true when Nyabera’s daughter is blessed with a large family.
When Mark hands Elizabeth a telegram, “Firm, decisive Elizabeth….had the most oppressive premonition of doom pressing in on
her from all sides and she simply could not make any sensible move.”(pg 200). Eventually, just as she feared, her mother dies.
c) FLASHBACK’
Flashback refers to the author’s regression or reference to the past. Events that took place sometime ago are relived to elaborate the
present or the future.
After the death of Akoko, Awiti is deeply affected and inconsolable. The mother, Nyabera, tries to console her by telling her of how
Akoko grew in a flashback. “She was the most beautiful girl in the whole village and the eldest daughter of the great chief Odero
Gogni and the apple of his eye. Twelve suitors came……he was a young chief and single and his name was Owuor Kembo….”(pg
154)
Wandia during a visit to Aoro when he was an Intern, remembers her childhood.”…she was lost in thoughts of her childhood,
running bare foot in the red fertile volcanic soil, after her mother- going home after a hard day’s work. She and her mother had
always been very close and having been named after her maternal grandmother, her mother had never referred to her as anything but
mami….”(pg 255)
d) ALLUSION
This is making reference to a statement, person, place, event or thing that is well known from literature, history, religion, myth,
sports or politics.
The Bible has been alluded to on several occasions. For example, when Nyabera goes to the mission at Aluor to seek the new
religion, she wants to go back and get her mother to as well join it. “It offered such consolation for one could identify oneself easily
with the desolation of Mary (a sword shall pierce your heart), with the joy of Elizabeth (whose barrenness was removed by God),
the warm love of weak Peter (Lord you know everything, you know that I love you!)(pg 108)
Maria gets baptized and during baptism it is said, “I baptize you Maria in the name of the father, and of the son and of the Holy
Spirit.” There is mention of Misri (Egypt) and the bad King Herodes, plus birth of Yesu Kristo. (pg 109-110)
Akoko and Nyabera’s leaving their homes to go to the mission center at Aluor is compared to the Biblical epic journey of Israelites
from Egypt to Canaan, “Like the children of Israel, they left the fresh pot of Egypt for uncertainties of Canaan,” (pg 113)
Maria alludes to the story of Daniel and the lions, Elias, the man who went to heaven on a bicycle of fire and great friendship of
Daudi and Jonathan (pg 113)
Other quotations from the Bible and the catholic belief are; “This is my body which will be given up for you.” The story of the
prodigal son is also alluded by Aoro when his father punished him he says,” Father I have sinned before you and God.”( pg 190),
When MaryAnne and Vera attend a mass at the recollection the priest says, “The mass has ended go in peace to love Lord and serve
one another.”(pg 132)
The students studying medicine together with Aoro are said, “……appeared to have been turned into Pillars of salt of the Mrs. Lot
variety.” (pg 244)
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Another example of allusion is a statement used during graduation. “By the powers conferred to me by the University of Nairobi I
give you the powers to do all that appertains to this degree.” (pg 300). This statement is made by the chancellor of the university
when conferring a doctor in medicine degree on Wandia.
In the novel, historical allusion comes out. For example, the First World War has been alluded to. The year is 1918 and the Joingresa (the English are at War with the Jo-Jerman (the German) for the last four seasons. The three young men from Sakwa go to
fight the Jo-Jerman (The Germans) in a place called Tanganyika(Tanzania) of a country of black people ruled by Jo-Jerman.(pg 6061)
e) SYMBOLISM
Symbolism is the use of a person, an object, an event to represent or stand for an idea .
The title, “The River and The Source” is symbolic. Akoko represents the source of this river, as Chief Odero comments, “…..that a
home without daughters is like a spring without a source.”(pg 11) She is symbolic of the beginning of a new generation of women in
society. She is a pioneer of women’s position and change in the society. Among the many positive qualities found in her and in the
women she inspires are; intelligence, hard work, courage and determination. In the course of her life the river is threatened by
obstacles among them deaths causing it to meander. However, the stream continues to flow and gains momentum. The writer
comments, “She it was who had been the source of this river which at one time trickled to a mere rivulet in danger of petering
out…..momentum.”(pg 204) She is indeed a source of inspiration in the family for through her guidance and wisdom she counters
all most all the obstacles that come her way and that of her children and grandchildren.
Akoko’s name which means “noisy one” implies that the female gender should not keep quiet when they are denied what is
rightfully theirs. Her first words dwara mara means want mine signifies that women should stand out to what is theirs.
Otieno Kembo is symbolic of male chauvinism. He is also symbol of greed, opportunism and arrogance of men who cling to
tradition in the name of defending male interests. (pg 73)
The journey by Akoko, Nyabera, Awiti and Owuor to Aluor mission, is symbolic of a new way of life and severance from the old
way of life. They now live far away from their matrimonial homes. Akoko and her grandchildren are also introduced to the Christian
religion. Living away from home means starting life a fresh, building a new home and not much food to eat, the children also get
formal education. The journey is also symbolic of the hope that Akoko’s family must have in order to survive. Having lost her
husband, Nyabera has to be inherited as tradition dictated. This doesn’t satisfy her and she yearns for something different that will
give her hope to live; the Christian religion. This gives them hope and as a result, Awiti acquires education and eventually becomes
a teacher while Owuor joins priesthood.
At Aluor mission, it is said there was the church with its steeple bearing, a cross at the top and the school. These symbolize
Christianity and colonialism. There is gradual change from tradition to modernity. Also the construction of the railway line long
before the birth of Akoko is an indicator of colonial penetration and subsequent introduction of the white man’s government. This
penetration has brought with it positive and negative changes in the society. There is positive in the sense that Akoko gets justice
and negative in the sense that the beautiful cultural values of the people are washed away. In addition, hereditary leadership withers
when Obura Kembo dies in Tanganyika and the baby Owuor finally opts for priesthood.
h) VIVID DESCRIPTION
Owour Kembo is vividly described; “Even without his black and white Columbus monkey headdress, he stood head and shoulders
above most men. He was obviously a man of nyadhi.....he has a spear in one hand, a shield in the other and splashes of white war
paint across his body. His face was virtually tattooed, his head set proudly on his shoulders and he wore only a tiny piece of leopard
skin.....(pg 18)
Akoko’s beauty is brought out through vivid description; “her eyes were set apart and neither too small nor too big, her teeth were
white and even with a bewitching gap at the centre of the upper set. Her ears with earrings dangling from tiny holes were perfectly
shaped standing just at the right angle from her head. And that neck! It was fit to inspire praise songs from nyatiti
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players! And were those two whole rings on her navel? ......As for her legs, Were must have curved them out personally rather than
one of his apprentices.” (pg 28)
f) HUMOUR
This is something that amuses or that which has the quality of making somebody laugh. There are several humorous instances in the
“The River and The Source.” Humour makes the story more interesting and also eases tension in very serious and tragic situations.
Akoko’s beauty is described in a humorous manner. The writer comments, as for her legs, Were must have carved them out
personally rather than one of his apprentices (pg 28). It is interesting to note that Were did not delegate to create Akoko’s legs.
Akoko’s conflict with Otieno Kembo is humorous especially where he calls her she-wolf. Akoko hisses at him and he retreats. It is
humorous to see a man who had dared Akoko backing off in fear.
When Akoko and her two grandsons go to Kisumu to lodge a complaint to the white chief (The D.O), the word D.O, sounded like
“diyo” which to them meant to squeeze. They wondered whether he might squeeze their brains.
The people of Sakwa are amused by the god of the white man who has a son and died to save them. It is exciting that the ignoramus
interprets this as sheer madness. It is also interesting that one can sleep on both ears. “I keep my ears open, my friend; I am not like
you who sleeps on both your ears. I keep one open and sleep on the other one!” (pg 59)
Awiti’s beauty is humorously described, “Her nose sat on her face as if the creator had really thought hard before placing it carefully
in place.” (pg 135) It is laughable that Awiti receives notes in college using the most unorthodox means, “a love note would come
flying into the room wrapped around a stone.” (pg 136)
The responses that Nyabera gets from Pilipo who seems to have some knowledge in the Christian religion introduced by the white
man are humorous. She had expected to get some information about this religion so that she could pursue it. “.........They said
something about God being three but only one but didn’t understand that very well.” “...................There were laws which said do
not kill.......and to take on one wife. The laws were too hard for me so I came home. (pg 102). This humour eases the tension that is
created by Nyabera’s situation. She has lost hope and is interested in the Christian religion which might give her hope. This humour
also points to the dilemma faces by the new converts who still wished to cling to aspects so their traditional culture and could not
cope with stringent requirements of the new religion.
When Wandia enquires about the well-being of her relations Kamau and Timothy, Ester tells her; “Timothy is still waiting for the
beautiful ones to be born. Meanwhile he chases whatever else is available.” (pg 262)
Before Elizabeth’s death, she recalls her life as a child and when many suitors were pursuing her. The description of the suitors is
humorous: “A love letter comes flying in through the open window; it was from a fellow student whose name was Cosmas
somebody or other and like so many others it declared willingness to climb mountains, fold rivers and swim oceans in order to reach
her and win her love. The guy must have drowned by now, thought Elizabeth her lips twitching. (pg 306)
g) IRONY
Irony is the opposite of the expected. The writer has brought to the forth several instances of irony in the text.
It is ironical for chief Odero’s spokesman. Aloo K’lima to assure the chief’s in-laws that since they (in-laws) are their brothers they
would not make things difficult for them during Akoko’s bride price negotiations, they in fact make things difficult for the in-laws
from Sakwa by setting the bride price at thirty heads of cattle which was two and half times the usual bride price. (pg 21-22)
Peter Owuor Kembo is Akoko’s only living grandson. He is expected to assume the chieftainship when he grows up but he develops
an interest in priesthood. The writer says of him, “he who has never really known his father or the joys of father-son relationship,
now dreamt of being a spiritual father of many.” (pg 127)
It is also ironical that Owuor Peter Sino expected Akoko to reprimand him and reject his proposal of wanting to become a priest and
yet she accepts without any argument. She tells him to do what the spirit bids him because the world is changing (pg 126)
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Irony is similarly evident when Mark Sigu tells Elizabeth, “it is easier to fight Germans and their allies than to get the courage to
talk to a girl.” (pg 138) He has waited to meet her for the last six weeks and this time round he had to gather enough courage to do
so.
Akoko had lost her first born son, Obura to the white man’s war. Before she dies, she regards her grandson-in-law as a replacement
for her son; “She had lost one son to the whiteman’s war; and by grace of God she has gained another from the white man’s army.”
(pg 149)
In defiance to a sticker stuck on the windscreen just next to the driver of a matatu Vera and Maryanne are travelling in to Kangemi,
the driver over speeds. One would have expected the driver to be reminded of the effects of dangerous driving by the sticker aptly
entitiled, “a speed song.”(pg 235)
Betty confesses to Vera that she loves money and all that it can buy. Despite living a lavish lifestyle, the carpet on the floor, the
pictures on the wall spelled one word-money. She ends up having affairs during the husband trips abroad and they finally divorce.
She lives alone with her children, well off but unhappy.
When Obura and Owang Sino die, Otieno, their uncle is supposed to assume the chiefdom but in the custody for the young Owuor
Sino. He does not keep it in custody but instead usurps his nephews chieftainship. He even grabs his brother’s as well as Akoko’s
wealth.
When Obura and two other men are killed in a war against the Germans on Tanganyika, the white man’s messenger”.... presented
the chief with a bracelet which they said was sent by the white people as a thank you and in memory of the fallen men” It is ironical
that after a selfless struggle by Obura on behalf of the whites, through which he loses his life, they can exchange life with a bracelet.
When we study the character of Vera, we discover yet another irony. She had been brought up embracing all the basic Christian
values and beliefs and we expect that she can find it quite simple to comprehend and understand the existence of God. But when she
becomes opposed to this belief and fails to understand the being of God given such a background, it becomes ironical.
i) ORAL LITERATURE DEVICES
The writer had used some oral literature in “The River and the Source.” These include:
Proverbs
Akoko’s father said of her birth, “A home without daughters is like a spring without a source”(pg 11). This indicates the chief’s
flexibility. He hears the baby cry and thinks it is a boy, “another rock for my sling.” The fact that the baby is a girl does not dampen
his spirit whatsoever.
Akoko’s family spokesman, Oloo, convinces the audience about a woman’s worth to her husband during the dispute between Akoko
and her mother-in-law and brother-in-law “........who knows the goodness of a tree but he who sits under its shade and eats its
fruits?” (pg 44)
Other examples of proverbs found in the story are-; “ Good manners is the fabric that holds the community together used in respect
to the search parties to mean that even if they did not find Obura, it was a sign of respect to the search parties to mean that even if
they did not find Obura, it was a sign of respect to go and report to the chief.
“Yesterday is not today and today is not tomorrow.” (pg 75) This proverb is used by Akoko to encourage her daughter Nyabera who
had suffered greatly by losing her children.
“It was disquieting to have all one’s eggs in this one tiny frail basket.” (pg 74). This is in reference to Akoko’s family’s hopes of
that long over the chiefdom which has now been placed in the hands of the little boy, her grandson.
“Bitterness is poison to the spirit for it breeds nothing but vipers some of which might consume your very self.” (pg 103) Akoko
uses this proverb to encourage Nyabera to try new religion so that all bitterness in her can end.
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“....Beggars cannot be choosers.” (pg 107) Nyabera had to make do with the place shown to her to put a house at Aluor mission.
“....you don’t have to be good, all you have to be is lucky.” (pg 281). Vera uses this saying in reference to his brother who is lucky
to have a good girl like Wandia.
“Laziness opens the door for evil to rule one’s mind and body.” (pg 93). Akoko uses this proverb to chide her brother-in-law Otieno,
who because of his laziness, ends up grabbing her wealth and inheritance.
Songs
The young men who come to escort Akoko from Yimbo to her husband’s home in Sakwa compose chants to praise certain qualities
in themselves. The song also creates humour. It also breaks monotony of narration. (pg 26) (quote the song in page 26)
Akoko sings a dirge full of praise for her husband as she morns him (pg 69) .(quote the dirge in page 69) The song breaks
monotony of narration, makes the story interesting and also indicates how the two; Akoko and Owuor Kembo loved each other.
Myth
A myth is story that talks about the origin of a group of people or a phenomenon. AKoko narrates the story of the origin of the Luo
to her grandson twins, Opiyo and Odongo as they embark in their epic journey. “In the beginning, Were was alone in the world
which was beautiful. Were is a spirit and a spirit is like a flame.....so he created Ramogi and his brothers who were men.........(pg 8182)
This myth highlights the role of elders in this community, which is to impact knowledge on the history of the tribe to all young ones.
“.......How can you know where you are coming from?” (pg 81)
Legends
A legend is a story that talks about a heroic historical character. “Of the children of Ramogi many great brave men have arisen.
They are called, “thuondi” the brave ones. These men of renown include Lwanda Magere. So strong and brave a warrior was he that
it is rumoured that sharp spears of Lang’o warriors could not pierce his skin.
Then there was Gor Mahia, the wily one who could change his form into anything at all....... (pg 82)
Other forms of style employed in the text include:
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Suspense
Rhetorical questions
Dialogue
Imagery (personification, metaphors and similes)
N.B. Look for examples of the stylistic devices above
For more notes on the River and the Source, visit: www.myliteraturelesson.com
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