Colonialismstarted a long time ago with the superpower countries ruling their respectivecolonies either directly or indirectly. Soon after the colonial mastersdiscovered Africa, they began to scramble for it to take up their territoriesof interest. However, with the call of the Berlin conference by the thenGermany chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, they peacefully portioned Africa amongthemselves. Kenya remained a British colony until 1963 when it gained herindependence through both armed struggle and diplomatic means.
But, after theindependence of such colonies, the issue of neocolonialism took place in thegeneral leadership structures (Mhango 19). Activistsemerged to condemn the evil of neocolonialism and imperialism in the cry for’full’ independence since the colonial masters continued to benefitirrationally from their former colonies through the elected colonies’ leaders.Ngugi wa Thiong’o is one of the Kenyan icons who condemned the notion ofneocolonialism in Kenya through poetry. In the dramatization of Ngugi’s novel “Devilon the Cross” the ideas of neocolonialism and imperialism in Kenya areevident.In”Devil on the Cross,” Ngugi wa Thiong’o attacks what he calls”the neocolonial stage of imperialism.” Initially, there is the needto know the circumstances under which prompted Thiong’o to scheme his work.Ngugi wrote this novel secretly on a tissue paper in one of the maximum prisonsin Kenya called Kimanthi in the early 1980s for allegations of writing andstaging plays that seemed to degrade the government. He wrote the term ‘devil’on that tissue paper, and this became the main term of the novel’s title andcontent.
In 1980, “Devil on the Cross” was written in his local dialect,Gikuyu, but later published in English in 1982 since its national demand washigh. Ngugi is after the condemnation of the neocolonialism that was beingwitnessed in Kenya, whereby, the then black leaders were more dangerous thanthe colonial masters (Mhango 24). Kenyans had thoughtthat they would greatly enjoy the freedom they had fought for, for severalyears after the independence in 1963 by being led by their leaders; only tofind that they had still not attained the full independence they had so eagerlydesired.
Theway the colonial masters remained in control of the independent state couldhave triggered Ngugi’s sentiments. After the country was given independence, theBritish and other European countries seemed to control most of the state’sdockets; even the peak leadership structure. The country still relied on theWestern nations to go on with her process of building a new country — acountry that does not contain any white element of Europeans (Mhango 18). However, the prolonged stay and availability of whitesin the country resulted to further dictatorship from these European nationsthrough their leaders.
Some Europeans had possession of lands in the country,commonly known as the ‘white highlands’, but their influence in the country wasagainst the desire and wish of Kenyans. The conditions given by the Europeancountries to deliver specific services like health in the country were enoughto term the situation as neocolonialism. Thecombination of aggressive black leaders who prized and valued themselves ofsnatching power from the colonial masters and the continued exploitation andcontrol of the country by the European nations through the leaders are enoughto explain the inner feelings of Ngugi regarding his sentiment “theneocolonial stage of imperialism.” This feeling propelled him to write anovel that addresses a certain “Devil” that needs to be driven out ofthe country through mass action to sanctify the nation from the imminent evilsit has brought to the country.
Celena Kusch in her book “Literary Analysis:The Basics” explores several literary terminologies that can be used toexhibit how the “Devil” uses formal elements to execute its imaginativeand critical project through variety of figurative language in the novel.Oneof the most profound elements is the metaphor. According to Kusch, “ametaphor asks readers to suspend limited, logical definitions to create new,intuitive definitions by comparison…
compares unrelated objects to convey adirect understanding of characteristics…” (Kusch 47). In the novel”Devil on the Cross”, there are several metaphors used to conveyhidden messages on the notions. The metaphor is used to criticize thegovernment undertakings which are termed as ‘devils’ in the novel. According tothe novel, these devils in Kenya include colonialism, capitalism, imperialism,and neocolonialism. These devils are present in the formal structures of thegovernment, and they are very perilous. The only ‘crosses’ that can be used tohang them are independence, unity, and communism. At the beginning of thenovel, the author says, “the Devil who would lead us into the blindness ofheart and the deafness of the mind should be crucified…” (Ngugi 1).Firstperson narration is very important in passing the intended meaning in aliterary work.
In most cases, the first-person narrative gives the work anadded advantage for the genre’s situations are reported directly withoutrelying on a secondary informant. In “Literary Analysis: The Basics,”Kusch says, “narrators whose voices speak in the first person as an ‘I’reveal to readers their observations and conclusions about the actions in thetexts” (Kusch 40). In Ngugi’s novel, “Devil on the Cross”, thereis the use of the first-person narration which helps in passing the exactintended message of condemning the “Devils” of imperialism andneocolonialism. Ngugi attributes himself as a prophet who has is calling formass action in crucifying the “Devil”. He says, “come, myfriend, come with me so I can take you along the paths that Wariinga walked. come,let us entrance her footsteps” (Ngugi 08).Anothercrucial element of literature analysis is rhythm.
The rhythm is resulted byrepetition of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs. The meters used tocreate the rhythm help in stressing the intended message. According to Kusch,”…the material experience of the sight and sound of words carriesadditional content. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the use ofrhyme” (Kusch 46). In the novel, the use of repetition in its text createsa deeper effect in the chase of the land’s “Devil”. Ngugi repeats thisstatement in the form of a rhetorical question; “Who will wipe awayKareendi’s tears now?” (Ngugi 17).
There is huge cry over who will deliverthe society being oppressed by the powerful personnel.Symbolismis a literature feature that aids in the passing of a significant message byusing specific objects. Kusch said, “symbols both create a shorthand forreferring to the larger concept and translate the concept into a tangibleobject that can relate metaphorically to other images and objects in thetext” (Kusch 48). Additionally, if the metaphors go to a further extent,they create a zone of symbolism for the symbols used pass certain message. In “Devilon the Cross” several symbols have been used to hail the condemnation ofcorrupt social evils in this case. For instance, the “Devil” issymbolically used to means the evil evils that demand to be chased off thesociety such as neocolonialism, imperialism, corruption, and capitalism.Inconclusion, Ngugi wa Thiong’o exhibits the problems that havebecome “devils” in most of the third-world countries.
Ngugi, having aclear and vivid experience of the harsh taste of these “devils” inhis nation; he successfully attains his goal of creating awareness to the countryand to the entire world. Neocolonialism and imperialism will continue hauntingthe countries affected if immediate rectifications are not made (Mhango 23). By using the terminologies explained by Kusch, the novelis very rich in channeling its message efficiently. It is a humble cry to therelevant western nations to stop getting involved in the third world countrieswith ill motives of looting ‘legally’ through their leaders in pitiful wayslike corruption and neocolonialism.