I was kind of wondering how the proverb “spare the rod spoil the child” can be related to The River and the Source.

Spare the road spoil the child is a proverb that directly questions the authority of parents paying little attention to their kids. It however does not elucidate the literal meaning of beating the child to make them change. It is quite a dilemma in trying to understand how to love the child and also make them still acquire maximum respect and discipline from you. For years, parents have grappled with this question.

Several authors have tried their hand in trying to put the parental role and child rebellion in their works. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Nwoye, Okokwo’s elder son rebels against the beliefs and principles of his father. In Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The River Between, Waiyaki gladly obeys the father and ‘rebels’ against his father’s principles and beliefs. Finally, in Margaret Ogolla’s The river and the Source, Obura disobeys his parents and goes out to see the world. These however are not the only scenarios in literature that questions parenting vis-à-vis understanding the child, the famous Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare tragedizes the impact of the relationship between parents and children.

Therefore, as a parent how much pressure can you apply on a child to epitomize proper kind of behaviour? How much space should you live your child to ensure that the child has acceptable conduct within your community? These are disturbing questions that have no definite answers. However, let us look at how Margaret Ogolla has tried to address these questions in the novel, The River and the Source.

Firstly, we get to see how Odero Gogni brought up his daughter and sons. Although he had other daughters, we can tell that Akoko was his favourite daughter. He makes sure that Akoko receives the best. He carefully chooses a suitable man for her by being patient until the right guy came. However, we realize the fault in his love for the daughter, she grew up to have an irrational temper.

Akoko on the other hand teaches her children to hardworking and free-spirited- this makes Obura to rebel and run away from home. However, despite her being wealthy, she does not spoil the soup for Nyabera who is married to a poor man. Nyabera respects her husband and her husband respects and loves her. However, Nyabera has thirst for children which Akoko lets her daughter learn the hard way but as a brilliant mother, Akoko is there to offer her daughter much needed comfort and guidance. In Akoko parenting extends up into old age where she is always there to check on her daughter and grandchildren.

Awiti’s parenting skills come up as free-style. She and her husband, Mark Sigu are loving but vigilant. When Aoro and Tony almost let the kid Odongo drown, the parents collectively decide deny them food to teach them responsibility. In this occasion, Elizabeth reasons that, if they go ahead with the punishment, the kids might become little thieves. She offers them supper later in the night. But when a grown-up Aoro is suspended from school, Elizabeth does not forgive it until the child learns the hard way to obey authority. Aoro grows up to become a doctor, a vocation that requires discipline and concentration.

On the other hand, the Sigu’s fail to understand Becky. She is as rebellious as her late uncle Obura and very independent minded. Her jealous and greed for money however lands her into irresponsible behavior that leads to her untimely death. Parents should therefore learn to appreciate the value of understanding their kids so as to apply the needed pressure in shaping the kids destinies. In so doing, they bring up the Awitis, Owuor Sinos, Veras, Aoros and Wandias of this world.


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