Critical Perspectives on Nyambura Gichohi’s “In the Name of Love”
The Philosophical Significance of Giochohi’s ‘In the Name of Love
Nyambura Gichohi’s “In the Name of Love” can be described as one of those literary works that have a connection between logical realms of possible existence and actual state of human existence because its thematic considerations border on pertinent issues concerning human relationships and social existence.
This article will reveal that Gichohi’s literary piece has some form of verisimilitude (credibility) as it attempts a chronicling of the human situation.
Every creative work has its own unique message which the creative artist seeks to communicate to the public. However, the medium employed by each writer to communicate his message varies depending on the inhibitions, perspectives and intended effect which he seeks to communicate to the audience.
There is no doubt that most fictional works are products of imaginative thinking which attempt, sometimes, to mirror real-life situations and, in some other instances, could be directed at describing some abstract apprehensions about diverse subject matters. This notion is aptly captured by Jose Ortega y Gaset, the French humanist, who considers the material of a novel as that which is immersed in an imaginary psychology such that:
People in a novel need not be like real ones, it is enough that they are possible. And this psychology of possible human minds which [he calls] imaginary psychology, is the one that matters to the novel. That a novel may, apart from this, be concerned with giving a psychological interpretation of actual social types and environments can provide an additional piquancy, but it is not essential.
Once verisimilitude is achieved by a creative artist, then it may be said that the fundamental purpose of the writer is achieved. It is possibly this reason that makes Isidore Okpewho (1979:
415) to affirm that it is the aim of the literary artist to strain for verisimilitude and not exactitude
That is the point of verisimilitude; it is an eclectic device that makes only a limited use of observable reality.
In this sense, Nyambura Gichohi’s “In the Name of Love”, is a representation of how emotions, when poorly managed, can bring some kind of misfortune to mankind. This is evident in her treatment of the theme of “anger” or “rage” which primarily fuels violence and other pugnacious human behaviours. In the prose, you see the central character (simply identified as “mama”), taking vengeance on the villain, who is her erstwhile husband, by attempting to murder him.
She was infuriated by the fact that her husband raped their only daughter, an action that she blamed herself for because she refused to believe her daughter when she tried to tell her about this unscrupulous act, but unfortunately her daughter decided to commit suicide. This conflict- situation is captured in the text in the following words:
One night my daughter ran into my bedroom crying because she had had a nightmare. I gathered her in my arms as she wept. I so much wanted her to open up to me. But five minutes later, dazed with shock and disbelief, I was slapping her and calling her names: prostitute, mad, wicked. I denied what she had struggled to tell me: that her father my husband – was having his way with her. No, I could accept that. I threw her out of my room and commanded her never to mention it again (par.6).
The consequence of her disbelief played out when eventually she was called to identify her daughter’s body in the school dormitory where her body was found. Obviously, the daughter had committed suicide for not being able to bear the thoughts of her being raped by her own father. This situation is what led to the genesis of the violence that ensues in the novel.
As a way of avenging her daughter’s death she took a knife (“I feel the cool steel of the Arab knife in my hand” par. 5), and went on looking for her husband. She eventually attacked him after she found him in a house with one of his numerous girlfriends. Ordinarily, the African woman is not known to be violent or brutal as Gichohi seems to exemplify with her use of imagery.
So Nyambura Gichohi seems to have presented us with “another image of African womanhood,” to borrow the words of Prema Nandakumar (1973). The point we are making here is that women are traditionally considered inferior to men and this is why their independent social initiatives tend to be discouraged. So the events in “In the Name of Love” seek to show the after-effect of trampling on a woman’s position in the family, even within a patrilineal African society.
Thus, it becomes important to raise the question as regards whether a woman’s role within the African society is jeopardised because she refuses to be:
- Brutalized by the malefolks
Thus, this situation could generate the type of poetic rhetoric, couched by Okot p’Bitek, the Ugandan poet, novelist, and social anthropologist: “woman of Africa, What are you not?”
Well, you can answer Okot p’Bitek by carefully examining Gichohi’s metaphoric expressions and thematic considerations which tend to reveal that the African woman is not instinctively violent. She is also presented as a human that possesses and expresses feelings as it is a truism that all humans are disposed towards some form of reaction in conflict situations.
But the issue at stake here is the danger of premeditated violence which is aptly highlighted in the text through the use of the first-person narrative technique. The whole story can be streamlined to the actions of a woman who, unable to put up with her husband’s gross irresponsibility and unscrupulous randy behaviour, decided to take the law into her own hands by cutting off her husband’s penis which she feels is the progenitor of all her life’s misfortune.
Of course she was angered by the fact she has not been fairly treated by the man she has sacrificed so much for, not to think of the fact that her husband had the audacity to rape their only daughter – his own child! In fact, the following lines in the text go to show anger as the harbinger of violence: “the only emotion I allowed myself now is anger.
- Anger at the man with whom I have shared mylife
- Anger at the father of mydaughter
- I have sacrificed everything for him: my pride, myself-respect.
- My sacrifice should have healed my home.
- Instead my daughter is dead.
Because of this, everything has now changed.” “…everything has now changed” here refers to change in the negative sense – that is, everything has changed for the worse.
Thus, the important theme which Gichohi seeks to explore is violence as a non-viable means of social change because violent change will always come with its own unpalatable sets of consequences.