Posted at 12.16.2018
Ngugi wa Thiongos Matigari is a modern African epic that castigates American imperialism for its hypocrisy and its gross exploitation of the proletariat, working category. The quest for real truth and justice assists as the guiding make that motivates the actions of the novel's heroic protagonist - a protagonist that Ngugi embellishes with stylistic elements that simultaneously improve the larger-than-life status of the type and help to supply the framework for the novel's epic compositional structure. Characteristics of traditional dental storytelling, intentional proposals of environmental ambiguity, repetition of central rhetorical questions, noun-epithet phrases, focus on augmented or supernatural skills, and biblical allusions are all frequently used to mention Matigari's central themes or templates of truth, justice, and a continuing socio-economic power have difficulties in ways that feel both philosophical and satirical at times, while altogether constantly traditional and legendary in form.
Ngugi wa Thiong'o commences Matigari with a set of prefatory notes that should immediately provide information in to the emphasis Ngugi places on the importance of oral custom. In Ngugi's essay Decolonizing the Mind he writes, "I'd like to see Kenya peoples' mother-tongues (our nationwide languages!) hold a literature reflecting the rhythms of an child's spoken manifestation, " (Ngugi, 28) to mention his opinion that oral custom (and, by expansion, writing in one's native terminology) is important to the preservation of local culture. As such, it should come as no surprise to find Ngugi's prefatory notes tackled "to the reader/listener". The structure of an oral epic narrative is further evidenced by Ngugi's adherence to traditional, formulaic opening rituals:
"So say yes, and I'll let you know a tale!
Once upon a period, in a country without name. . . . "
These prefatory records not only set up an oral, presentational firmness - their goal also functions to introduce the novel's setting and other introductory information. Perhaps most peculiar about this release is Ngugi's firmness on proposing physical ambiguity. While identity names and landscape/floral explanations throughout the book strongly signify a Kenyan setting, Ngugi insists on the story having "no preset time or space". This mythologization of historical happenings - the intentional hyperbolic or fantastic representation of real-world configurations - contributes greatly to the stylistic framework and epic structure of the book. By alluding to real-world locations while simultaneously insisting upon the setting's undefined aspect, Ngugi allows his protagonist the dual capacity to act as both a national hero so when an international warrior for justice on behalf of the lower school.
Matigari's narrative is divided into three parts, mimicking the introduction--rising action--conclusion trinity common to traditional folklore composition. Though each individual part displays unique aspects in shade and compositional composition, Ngugi curiously ends each section with the same question (only just a bit reworded each time). Part one ends thus: "Still the question remained: Who was Matigari ma Njiruungi?" (Ngugi, 54). Part two in the same way ends with: "But who was Matigari ma Njiruungi?" (Ngugi, 107). And Part three concludes with: "Who was simply Matigari ma Njiruungi? Was he useless, or was he alive?" (Ngugi, 148). Thus, I really believe Ngugi discloses the narrative's central thematic question: Who's Matigari? Every one of the novel's characters (both major and minor) have significantly differing ideas of who the protagonist is, what he means, what he looks like, what his capabilities are, and if he's even real:
"Each of them shared the same hope: that a miracle should take place. But at the same time all considered: who actually was Matigari ma Njiruungi? A patriot? Angel Gabriel? Jesus Christ? Was he a human being or a soul? A true or phony prophet? A saviour or just a lunatic? Was Matigari a man or was he a woman? A child or an adult? Or was he only an idea, a graphic, in people's heads? WHO WAS SIMPLY He?" (Ngugi, 134).
Matigari, the titular protagonist, is a tale; he is the epic hero with one thousand encounters. His physical and moral qualities, his curious romantic relationship with both natural and the supernatural, his deity-like demeanor, his championing for the oppressed lower-class, and the reciprocal character of his interactions with people define his god-like, heroic identity as concurrently one of epic proportions and one of humble relatability.
First I will speak of Matigari's exemplary characteristics - beginning with his very name. We are told his name, Matigari ma Njiruungi, means "the patriots who survived the bullets" (Ngugi, 17) which sources the patriots who survived the liberation warfare, and their political offspring. From namesake alone, we already are released to the heroic characteristics of the protagonist. Upon further analysis of namesakes, we quickly identify one of Ngugi's most widely-used stylistic elements to attain formulaic, epic structure: the noun-epithet word. "Settler Williams, " "Minister for Fact and Justice, " "His Excellency Ole Excellency, " "Giceru the informer" or the "Hooded Truth, " "Madam the Minister's Partner, " "He-who-reaps-where-he-never-sowed, " while others join the likes of "Matigari ma Njiruungi" as individuals with epithetical names to effectively dramatize character traits within an almost satirical manner that reflects the narrative's larger-than-life form.
Matigari's physical characteristics likewise appear to mystify those whom he interacts with. His face often seems to morph backwards and forwards between youth and later years - often within the matter of secs. "Age crept again on his face; the lines and wrinkles appeared to have increased and deepened. How everything had changed. That which was this world approaching to?" (Ngugi, 25) contrasts sharply with "The courage of truth had once more transformed him. It seemed to have wiped get older off his face, making him look extremely younger looking" (Ngugi, 26). Matigari's physical size is also mysteriously inconsistent. At one point in the narrative, he's rumored to be "a little, ordinary-looking man" (Ngugi, 63), at another, he is provided as "a extra tall, well-built, elderly man" (Ngugi, 93), and additionally it reaches other times reported that "The man is a giant" (135). These fluctuating, inconsistent physical characteristics portray Matigari as some sort of universal, ubiquitous figure. Much like an ethereal, omnipresent god, Matigari can interact with all kinds of folks from "all corners of the earth. "
Not uncommon to numerous of the fantastic literary epics of background is the theory that the hero must endeavor through - or conquer - that which is inaccessible to mere mortals. Within the Greek "Odyssey", Circe the enchantress informs Odysseus that he must travel to the underworld in search of answers to elusive questions. Within the Nordic "Beowulf", Beowulf is tasked to bring a finish to the hellish monstrosity known as "Grendel" while only using his bare hands - a task no mere mortal may achieve. Similarly, Ngugi paints his protagonist with super-human, almost-god-like abilities: Matigari's tone of voice, for example, mimics the sound of thunder (Ngugi, 80, 124); his snoring is "like the roar of the lion in the wilderness" (Ngugi, 137); his look penetrates deep into one's heart and soul (Ngugi, 123); he has the ability to communicate with family pets (Ngugi, 143); he has a superhuman capacity to preserve and defy both hunger and fatigue (Ngugi, 12); he fears no man but rather strikes fear into others (Ngugi, 31, 114-15). Such features and capabilities are bestowed upon only those of unordinary greatness - thus we view Matigari as some sort of demigod at the very least. Ngugi's use of hyperbole in this case functions to dramatize the hero's character into epic form and function. Matigari often finds himself in circumstances of such lucky coincidence that his very chance is often related to a similar "favour of the Gods" that ancient epic heroes such as Achilles, Hercules, and Hermes were blessed with. In these cases, the Gods - or the supernatural powers-that-be - aided their favored heroes by delivering them with special tools or presents. . . and, on occasion, by physically twisting the natural world to match their hero's needs. Matigari is not a different. The rocks that are hurled at him by children, for instance, are, at least in the beginning, miraculously deflected (Ngugi, 14) and he "seemed to be protected by some magic power, for the bullets didn't hit him. . . . It had been as though on getting him they converted into normal water" (Ngugi, 146). Not only are these unexplainable charms products of the supernatural, so too will be the natural components of fire and normal water that spontaneously arise without logical description just when the hero needs them the most. The source of the climactic, explosive flame at Boy's house and the reason for the immediate torrential deluge at the novel's conclusion are never fully described. We, the readers/listeners, are kept to simply marvel at their all-too-timely introduction which saves both quest and the life of the epic hero.
When talking about the fable-like, supernatural undertones of Ngugi's book, it would almost be unlawful not forgetting the biblical allusions - which range from 'prominently included' to 'repeatedly-in-your-face' in their subtlety - Ngugi makes use of in the narrative to characterize his protagonist. Though Matigari will in fact are different with Christ in a number of ways (notably Matigari's vengeful convictions and his approval for the utilization of arms to attain desired effects), he is largely depicted as the Jesus-like figure the general public and the federal government come to concurrently dread and admire. "Our people, why don't we talk about this bean, which drop of wines" (Ngugi, 46) is a specific allusion to Jesus' Last Supper. Each of the prisoners (most of whom are described in the noun-epithetical phrases Ngugi is so keen on) parallels one of Jesus' disciples. On top of that, Matigari's choices to save Muriuki and Guthera (a character who mirrors that of the biblical Mary Magdalene in job and in eventual salvation) in the first third of the narrative help as examples of Matigari's performed miracles. These personas reciprocate their lot of money by conserving Matigari as some point later on. Matigari's release from jail by Guthera and his later release from the mental clinic by Muriuki shed light onto an growing theme of reciprocity. Ngugi appears to suggest that only through unity, conviction, and altruistic sacrifice can the exploited lower course prevail on the ruling elite.
Though Matigari swims in a sea of grandiose characterization, Ngugi is careful not to lose the relatable individuals side of the type. While Matigari ma Njiruungi is a figure of embellished heroism, he is also a champ of the working class who pertains to the normal man. As the figurative embodiment of the staff member, Matigari often represents himself as a farmer, manufacturing plant hand, driver, tailor, soldier, patriot, and contractor (Ngugi, 21-22, 38, 60, 74, 143). Ngugi's use of two particular repeating motifs - the search for fact and justice, and using the "belt of tranquility" - serve to portray Matigari as a chivalrous, peaceful champion for a noble, relatable cause. Thus, Matigari is distanced from the likes of Achilles and Odysseus - forgoing braggadocio for empathetic humility.
It is through all of these above mentioned stylistic techniques - the modeling of traditional oral storytelling, intentional proposals of environmental ambiguity, repetition of central rhetorical questions, noun-epithet phrases, focus on augmented or supernatural abilities, and biblical allusions - that Ngugi successfully crafts a narrative that transcends the status of a mere published 'tale' and only emulating an original, modern African epic in both form and function. Ngugi wa Thiong'o's deliberate depiction of Matigari as both a larger-than-life, god-like hero and a relatable common man on the chivalrous quest for fact and justice earn the titular character both the titles of national hero and international public champ that, when offered from technology to era through literary and oral custom, transcend the epic test of time.