Christianity’s Function in Matagari by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’S Essay

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Matagari catalogs the story of Matagari, Guthera, and Muriuki as they look for truth and justice across their country. During this journey the story highlights many Biblical allusions that play a major role in the story development and how Matagari, primarily, looks for truth and justice. In order to understand the text, the reader must first understand the basics of Christianity and the Bible. The majority of the passages tell Guthera’s story, as she is the character who most relies on her faith in Jesus Christ and Christianity during the pursuit of justice.

Understanding the Bible and Matagari’s goal as he fights the government is key for this text and for this manner of reading Matagari. As he writes he attempts to reach a wide spectrum, however specifically the oppressed in Kenya, as that is his homeland and what he strongly believes in. Therefore the usage of biblical allusions encourages the trio (Guthera Muriuki and Matagari) to pursue justice and act as the Christian Trinity, and functions as a way for citizens to revolt against the government.

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Matagari functions as the Father in Matagari and represents a part of the Trinity. Matagari started the story fighting an internal battle: whether to fight the government with words or weapons. During his pursuit for truth and justice, he meets Guthera and Muriuki. Guthera lives as a former prostitute who had a very Christian upbringing, but whose father died fighting his government and Muriuki a homeless child with no authority figures or role models in his life.

When Matagari first met Muriuki he was terrified of being picked on by the other children and no one to protect him, “if I go back there, the big boy will surely beat me up and steal my things, (Thiong’O, 14)” Guthera struggled to survive after the death of her father and fall into poverty, “During the war for independence, the police arrested her earthly father. They told her that she could save him only surrendering her purity,(Thiong’O 29)” Matagari brought these two along in his pursuit of truth and justice.

They helped him “find his children” and “rebuild his home” but they function as his own children, as well as give them both another father-figure which they lost before meeting Matagari. The way Matagari took these two and acted as a father to them he embodied the Father in the Christian Trinity. However, Matagari also represents a father to the entire nation because he saves the workers on strike as well as everyday people the government affects by their corrupt decisions, including Guthera and Muriuki. Muriuki function as the Son in Matagari and part of the Trinity.

Muriuki is the youngest member of the trio that Matagari took across the country in the pursuit of justice, he is also the most innocent and childlike, due to his age. However as they continue fighting throughout the book, he matures. In part of three he giggles at the couple making love, but still knows what happened in the car, “they are doing love. They have no clothes on. They have the radio on, but they are not listening to it, (Thiong’O, 128)” He said as he was laughing uncontrollably, he was still maturing so he was able to capture the spirit of a son, as well as his role as the Son.

Also after Matagari and Guthera have drifted down the river, “Matagari and Guthera fell into the river. Drops of water splashed into the air, wetting the dry earth by the banks of the river, (Thiong’O, 147)” and the reader is unsure whether they are alive or dead. He embodies Matagari as his father, by being ‘resurrected’ into Matagari and closing the story just as it began, Under the Mugumo tree Muriuki dug up all the things that Matagari had hidden,-Finally he picked up the AK47 and slung it over his shoulder.

He stood for a while under the Mugumo tree, (Thiong’O, 148)” At this point in the story, he matured and took his father’s place, while he still acting as the son and did his father’s work. Guthera functions as the Holy Spirit in Matagari and represents a part of the Trinity. When Guthera was shot, she began bleeding. Matagari stops to pick up Guthera and didn’t leave her behind, functioning as a father. “And then suddenly the whole world was filled with the sound of gunfire. Guthera screamed and fell to the ground, (Thiong’O, 146)” She formed a bond with Matagari because he saved her, “They [dogs] tore at their clothes their flesh.

But not once did Matagari let go of Guthera, (Thiong’O, 147)” and a bond with Muriuki because he also attempted to save her when she was attacked, “Guthera screamed and fell to the ground. Matagari and Muriuki threw themselves on to the ground too, but were not hurt, (Thiong’O, 146)” She was able to save them by acting as a protecting spirit, the Holy Spirit. Guthera protected them and guided them. This decision ended Matagari, Muriuki reincarnated himself as Matagari, and Matagari passing on into Muriuki. “But not once, not once did Matagari let go of Guthera.

Their blood mingled and it trickled into the soil, on the banks of the river, (Thiong’O, 147)” When Matagari rescued Guthera, he jumped with her into the river and their blood merged and “trickled into the soil” the combination of the father and Holy Spirit feed the Earth and the Son. Since Guthera protected Matagari and Muriuki as well as merged with Matagagri to feed the citizens, earth, and the son, and was constantly with both of them, Guthera replicated and resembled the Holy Spirit of the Christian Trinity. Finally, The Bible and Biblical allusions function as a way to help the citizens’ revolt against the government.

The citizens of this country were attempted to find a normal life, but the government won their way by ending strikes and forcing them to work. When Matagari was locked in jail, and found the gate mysteriously unlocked, many believed the Angel Gabriel let them out without a trace, “’Only Gabriel the angel of God can get you out of here. Amen,’ the drunkard said. Hardly had he finished the sentence, before they hear footsteps and the sound of keys jingling in the dark,(Thiong’O, 54)” The citizens believed it was Christ’s return to the earth.

However the government was furious at the fact that the citizens believed that their God had returned, when in fact Guthera, broke her 11th commandment to never lay with the men who killed her father and stole her purity, (Thiong’O, 29) She slept with one of the cops and waited for him to fall asleep, ‘after men do after such activities, (Thiong’O, 102)”stole his key to release them. The citizens, however, believed that the angel Gabriel had once again returned to release them as he had released the Apostle Peter years before in Acts 12:5-17, (Zondervan, 1178).

The government fiercely denied this, but the citizens were so riled up at the government for not letting them believe what they wished that it let them revolt against the government. Matagari was able to seek out and eventually came to find truth and justice across the lands of this fictional land, with the help of his comrades. However without their embodiments of the most powerful trio it wouldn’t have been accomplished. Therefore the trinity was able to find truth and justice and rebuild Matagari’s country, and find Matagari’s children

Works Cited
Thiong’O, Ngugi Wa. Matagari. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1993. Zondervan. New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI, 1986.


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