This is the use of a person, an object, an event to represent or stand for an idea.
The title, “The River and The Source” is symbolic. Akoko represents the source of this river, as Chief Odero comments, “…..that a home without daughters is like a spring without a source.”(pg 11) She is symbolic of the beginning of a new generation of women in society. She is a pioneer of women’s position and change in the society. Among the many positive qualities found in her and in the women she inspires are; intelligence, hardwork, courage and determination. In the course of her life the river is threatened by obstacles among them deaths causing it to meander. However, the stream continues to flow and gains momentum. The writer comments, “She it was who had been the source of this river which at one time trickled to a mere rivulet in danger of petering out…..momentum.”(pg 204) She is indeed a source of inspiration in the family for through her guidance and wisdom she counters all most all the obstacles that come her way and that of her children and grandchildren.
Akoko’s name which means “noisy one” implies that the female gender should not keep quiet when they are denied what is rightfully theirs. Her first words dwara mara means want mine signifies that women should stand out to what is theirs.
Otieno Kembo is symbolic of male chauvinism. He is also symbol of greed, opportunism and arrogance of men who cling to tradition in the name of defending male interests. (pg 73)
The journey by Akoko, Nyabera, Awiti and Owuor to Aluor mission, is symbolic of a new way of life and severance from the old way of life. They now live far away from their matrimonial homes. Akoko and her grandchildren are also introduced to the Christian religion. Living away from home means starting life a fresh, building a new home and not much food to eat, the children also get formal education. The journey is also symbolic of the hope that Akoko’s family must have in order to survive. Having lost her husband, Nyabera has to be inherited as tradition dictated. This doesn’t satisfy her and she yearns for something different that will give her hope to live; the Christian religion. This gives them hope and as a result, Awiti acquires education and eventually becomes a teacher while Owuor joins priesthood.
At Aluor mission, it is said there was the church with its steeple bearing, a cross at the top and the school. These symbolize Christianity and colonialism. There is gradual change from tradition to modernity. Also the construction of the railway line long before the birth of Akoko is an indicator of colonial penetration and subsequent introduction of the white man’s government. This penetration has brought with it positive and negative changes in the society. There is positive in the sense that Akoko gets justice and negative in the sense that the beautiful cultural values of the people are washed away. In addition, hereditary leadership withers when Obura Kembo dies in Tanganyika and the baby Owuor finally opts for priesthood.
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