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Going Down River Road: A thematic analysis of people, spaces and places in the novel Author: Omar S. Kh. Abdul-Hafiz EMGS Masters of Global Studies from. Meja Mwangi's Going Down River Road and. Takako Nakamoto's The Female Bell-Cricket*. Frances CAUSER. This paper juxtaposes two very different works of. Khanji Bhai scrambled from under a lorry, and ran to the latrine at the far corner of the site. They rarely saw him eat, but he was always running to the toilet.

Going Down River Road Pdf

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Going Down River Road [Meja Mwangi] on yazik.info *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Ben is a man on the move – in bars, in night clubs and in seedy . GOING DOWN RIVER ROAD Ben is a man on the move - in bars, in nightclubs and in seedy pubs down Nairobi's River Road. On one of these occasions he. Going Down River Road Themes - Free download as PDF File .pdf), Text File . txt) or read online for free. going-down-river-road-themes.

The second encounter is when he meets Wini. Wini thus gives him another window of hope that he had finally found the love of his life and thus is ready to establish a family with her.

This plan, also falls apart eventually when Wini disappears all of a sudden with her white boss, leaving him alone to take care of her illegitimate son, Baby. Thus, we can see that neither the idea of crime nor that of women was successful with Ben, which then leads us to the third and final plan, to invest in childhood. It is thus at this point that Ben begins to truly care for Baby and make sure he gets a good education so that he would have a better future.

In a more philosophical or didactic sense, there is some kind of a shift from selfishness to selflessness. And perhaps one may propose the opinion that his very decision to dedicate himself to Baby is a kind of victory in the sense that would eventually turn his predominant anti-heroism to some extent into a form of heroism.

Unlike Ben, however, Ocholla also has a big family to feed and look after. While his family was out of town, Ocholla would spend much of his time with Ben.

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And when Wini left Ben and Baby alone and they found themselves homeless after loosing even Wini's house where they lived together, they moved in with Ocholla. Ocholla's relationship with Ben and Baby is generally good. Ocholla, for instance, at one point teaches Baby not urinate on himself anymore.

And it lasted until eventually Ochalla's big family decided to come to the city to move in with him. At this point, Ocholla finds himself forced to take a painful decision to ask Ben and Baby to leave because there was no more space for them in the house. However, this problem does not end their close friendship. Yet we never really know exactly what happens between them later on.

Mwangi offered two equally indefinite endings to their story. The other was in the edition of the story titled Down River Road in which Ben and Ocholla end up hooking arms around each other's shoulders and walking side by side down River Road, singing their karara song in Gikuyu and Swahili5. The most dominant image of the woman in the story is therefore that of a prostitute, or a so-called 'sex worker'. It is especially necessary to note here that both terms , 'prostitute' and 'sex worker', are mentioned here because each of them seems to reflect one aspect of this activity.

While 'prostitute' reflects the social image of a woman who tends to sleep with men in return for money, the name 'sex worker' reflects the 'professional' aspect. This image is in fact very strong in the story; so strong in fact that the reader may get the feeling that women in the story are merely objects for the man's pleasure and hedonistic desires. Yet we may see how the personalities of these women vary as well. Wini: At first we have Wini who is the main woman in the story.

Wini has a rather confident and professional personality.

A physically and sexually attractive young woman, she works as a secretary by day, a prostitute by night and a college student in between.

Moreover, she is considerably successful at what she does. She was able to afford a place to live with her son besides also paying for her studies. As such, her physical attractiveness and her success in making a living made her a quite desirable woman who captures Ben's heart and after their first night together, he decides to marry her. Beside her personal appeal, Wini has another very important aspect which is motherhood. She is a mother of a four year old child, Baby, whom she accidentally had from one of her past 'customers'.

The relationship between Wini and her son is rather unclear. She mentions more than once that she loves him. However, by observing the way she treats him, it gives an impression of the opposite. For one thing, she does not seem to do much of her motherhood duties towards him. She certainly cares for him to some extent, but this care does not seem as warm and intimate as it would be normally expected from a mother.

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Feeding him, for example, the only things she seems to offer him are bread, tea or coffee, which causes him to constantly urinate in his bed. When he is sick, however, she would choose to stay with him than to go to Ben's place.

Oh, and by the way, where exactly does she leave him when she is at work?

That, interestingly enough, we never really know, as it remains unmentioned in the story. And finally the relationship between Wini and her child reaches the height of its ambiguity when, all of a sudden, Wini disappears and runs away with her white Boss. The news of this disappearance is only revealed when Ben goes to her workplace and receives a letter she left him containing a check with a big amount of money. One thing, however, that needs to be admitted is that we never really get to listen directly to the perspective of Wini herself.

And perhaps this could be a question to be addressed to the author. What she might have to say to explain her decision, we never get to hear. As a result, it would be impossible to 5 make a decisive judgment about her.

But by the simple fact that she left him, we may be able to conclude, although indefinitely, that she considered her motherhood of Baby to be a mistake that she needed to find a solution for. Still, it seems she cared for Baby enough that she remembered to convince her boss, Mr. Caldwell, with whom she ran away, to send him a good amount of money to pay for his schooling. Thus, in the case of Wini unlike the case of Ben, it can be seen here that Wini preferred to pursue her own personal desires for money and luxury than to look after her child.

In other words, as opposed to Ben, Wini adopted a more selfish mentality than a selfless one. Susan: Aside from Wini, however, there is another prostitute, Susan, which we meet briefly in the story in chapter 12 at the New Eden nightclub.

Susan, a young girl perhaps still in her teenage, just like Wini also has a baby which she must have had by mistake from one of her past 'customers'.

Susan, however, is rather new to the job, and as a result seems to be more sensitive. As she gets in bed with Ben, their noise wakes up the baby causing her to get out of bed to look after him. Interestingly enough, just as is the case with Wini and her son, Susan's baby was also soaked in his urine. Susan burst into sobs as Ben briefly reprimands her for her carelessness towards her little baby. We also never get to know about the fate of Susan and her child. Does she decide to quit prostitution and look after her baby?

Or does she continue in this path? This would have been very helpful in understanding the bigger picture of this story. It would have also been helpful if we were to compare the case of Susan to that of Wini for a deeper understanding of the mindset of a young prostitute. Looking more closely at the author's focus on children's urine reveals an idea that prostitution is harmful to motherhood. A prostitute sells sex for money, and thus the idea of having a baby, which can be almost likened to a workplace accident, forms a distraction or an obstacle in her 'career' which she tries to solve, or at least ignore.

Thus motherhood, to put it another way, becomes an undesired accident in the life of a 'sex worker'. This 'accident' is then left for men to handle. Wini goes away and leaves Baby with Ben, who sort of adopts him and makes sure he goes back to school7, as mentioned earlier. The building, quickly growing up, was four floors at the beginning of the story8. The building is finally completed at some point with some twenty floors.

And at this point, ironically, the building that carried the name 'Development House' actually offered very little 'development' if at all since the workers who spent long days and months erecting it suddenly found themselves jobless and homeless after its completion.

This image is very telling of how, the Kenya and the third world in general, urban development is very disconnected and unrelated to the development and betterment of the lives of people hired to make this urban development a reality. New buildings and roads are erected and paved, while the lives of those who built them remain as miserable and disadvantaged as they have been before.

Even death at the building site was not an event worthy of much attention. After a man, Onesmus, died in a work accident, no one seemed to care much about what happened to him, and everyone remembered just how much of a trouble-maker the man was.

Even the police hardly shed any effort in investigating the circumstances of his death. Wini breathed soft and low by his side.

Going Down River Road Themes

Her nude body lay stretched out against his, her hand resting on the inside of his hairy thigh. She would be waking up soon to make his breakfast.

He did not stir her. She had her own clockwork system that first turned her over once or twice before she opened her eyes to complain about the shortness of the past night. In another half hour he would be on his way to work. Roger Kurtz says Mwangi's "urban novels remain the paradigmatic and in many ways most interesting examples of the urban genre from Kenya," and he calls Going Down River Road "the Nairobi novel par excellence".

I do not have the knowledge or background to judge how accurate Kurtz's perception of the novel's importance is, but it was recommended to me strongly enough that it become the object of a quest I and some friends went on when we were in Nairobi. A Kenyan had told us that the book is a fine example of how to write about a particular place and time, and that it evoked a lost Nairobi that was nonetheless familiar enough. The book was described with such passion that we became determined to find copies for ourselves.

We went from one bookstore to another, but though they all had books by Mwangi he's a prolific writer , they did not have Going Down River Road. The afternoon turned to evening and all the shops in the city center closed.

We asked around, and someone told us that if anybody would have copies of the book, it would be a bookstore over in a mall in Westlands, and so we got into a taxi and sped off in search of the book -- and lo and behold, we found a pile of them. One for each of us. It amuses and disturbs me to think that I bought Going Down River Road in a mall in one of the richer areas of Nairobi, because the book itself is so much about the traps and travails of utter poverty.

It tells the story of Ben, who works at a construction job and spends most of the little bit of money he makes on alcohol and prostitutes, until one day his ex-prostitute girlfriend leaves him with her young son known only as Baby and never returns. Ben is often miserable, and just as often he is an observer of worse misery than his own. Becoming the caretaker for Baby does not turn him into some sort of saint -- he only barely takes care of the boy, though eventually he does pay his school fees and make sure he goes to school.

Ben is vehemently misogynistic, and after Wini abandons him, his misogyny becomes worse than it ever has been. He is not an appealing character, and yet Mwangi writes about him in such a way that we can feel some sympathy, and so we care about his fate. I found myself becoming frustrated with him in the way I would become frustrated with a friend whose opinions seemed ridiculous to me and whose actions even more so, but who nonetheless possessed enough elements of goodness to make me want to remain in his company for at least a short time.

Mwangi avoids both cliche and sentimentality by making Ben such a difficult character to like, and yet there is enough to like -- an intelligence that gets fiercely beaten down but won't disappear completely -- that the book doesn't slide into frigid cynicism.

Though the narrative verges on fetishizing the squalor and reveling in the misery, it never quite descends to that in my eyes, at least because Ben's intelligence does occasionally prevail, and he recognizes not just the pain he feels himself, but the pain of other people -- including pain he causes. He is incapable of escaping this world for himself, but he holds out hope that Baby might, and he tries as best he can to maintain the friendship most important to him so that he doesn't sink into a bleaker world of his own making, a world of only himself.

Going Down River Road is, indeed, a good example of a novel that is as much about its setting as its characters, because the characters are so inextricable from the setting, so entwined with it. The book grows repetitive at times, perhaps to indicate the borders of the life Ben has made for himself. The writing varies in quality from sometimes breezy and a bit thin to evocative in its descriptions of physical sensations -- at its best, this is a novel that assaults all the senses.In short, it is where there is female 'sex labor' versus the males' seek of leisure and hedonistic desires.

Ben is vehemently misogynistic, and after Wini abandons him, his misogyny becomes worse than it ever has been. The most dominant image of the woman in the story is therefore that of a prostitute, or a so-called 'sex worker'.

Jan 13, Lisa Poggiali rated it really liked it. And he would still have a certain amount of trouble. Ocholla picked a handful of gravel and hurled it at the bucket lying on its side a few feet away. Like Reader s Digest style of literature, engaging and light.? To ask other readers questions about Going Down River Road.