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Musterlösung 2013: Textaufgabe: Comprehension Fiktionaler Text "A Meeting in the Dark" by N. wa Thiong’o ML


  1. Describe how John’s actions and body language reflect his state of mind.
  2. Compare the attitudes of Wamahu’s parents towards John.
  3. Explain how the author uses the imagery of light and darkness in the given extract.


Question 1

John seems to be an unhappy young man who is not only “nervously looking at his father” (l.7) and giving nervous little laughs (l.6) when being around him but he is also quite afraid of him, as he knows his father could “easily thrash him” (l.13). This is the reason why he doesn’t like to stay long in his parents’ hut and leaves to go to his own hut as soon as he has finished his dinner (l.10).

John pretends to be in his hut by lightening a lantern and leaving it burning when in fact he secretly goes out to meet Wamuhu (l.19-21). He’s extremely tense and his hands are shaking when he lights the lantern as he knows he’s about to do something his father disapproves of. That’s also the reason why he tries to disguise himself (l.18). At the same time he is hating himself for not having the backbone to stand up against his father and be rebellious like the other young educated men.

When he finally is in front of Wamuhu’s hut, he is unsure of how to act and carefully considers what or rather who could be expecting him until he finally decides to enter the hut (l.29-32). Before entering the hut, John pulls down his hat (l.35) hoping her parents won’t recognize him.

He doesn’t feel comfortable to be alone with Wamuhu’s parents since he notices the glances between them and senses that especially her mum has great expectations for a possible relationship between the two of them. Feeling like bolting, he bites his lips (l.52), something he seems to do habitually whenever he feels under pressure (“bit his lip spitefully”, l.20).

He retreats from the hut by uttering “I am afraid….” (l.56) which can be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand he might feel sorry for leaving so abruptly. On the other hand it sums up his overall state of mind – he is scared of the whole situation.

Question 2

Wamuhu’s parents see John in a completely different way. Whereas her mother is proud that John is taking an interest in her daughter her father is very sceptical about him.

When John enters the hut Wamuhu’s mother is very hospitable towards John and when he asks for Wamuhu, her mother throws her husband a triumphant glance (l.51). She is extremely proud that such an educated man like John is taking an interest in her daughter. In a later conversation with her husband she insists on John being different from all the other men since he is a clergyman’s son and has a good reputation (l.60-61).

Wamuhu’s father, however, is very reluctant and sceptical. He remembers his tribe’s old traditions and values. Besides he also knows that the white man has only brought sorrow and destruction to their tribe’s social life and especially to its daughters. He fears that John might treat his daughter in the same dishonourable way. Furthermore, he is certain John’s father would never agree to him marrying a circumcised girl (l.72-73).

Question 3

Right at the beginning of the text the imagery of “light” and “shadow” is introduced. The sun has already set and the darkness is coming (l.1) which could point to how the story will end.

When John lights the lantern in his hut we sense even more dark foreboding as the flame “flickers dangerously” (l.16), it even goes out and he has to relight it again. This can be seen as a sign for his inner conflict. Deep down he likes to rebel against his father’s oppressive nature but still doesn’t have the courage to do so. Instead, he sneaks away like a “shadow” (l.22) to meet Wamuhu. Thus leaving the “light” and moving into “darkness” becoming something threatening himself just as he is perceived by Wamuhu’s father. The scarcely lit hut of Wamuhu´s parents and especially the “huge shadow” symbolize her father’s great worry for her and his fear of the impending doom for his tribe. It could also be seen as a warning to John not to pursue his course of action any further since the giant shadow seems to be mocking him (38-39). At the end of the text Wamuhu’s father is poking the dying fire, desperately trying to rekindle it but to no avail, doom and destruction seem to be inevitable.

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