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In the novel, The Burdens, John Ruganda tackles tough themes include education, politics, poverty
and man's cruelty to one another. It chronicles the downward spiral of the main character, Wamala,
as he loses his post as a Minister in the government and slides into poverty, even as he denies it.

Aesthetic value of John Rugambwas the Burdens

The play is set in a post-independent Uganda and the language is in some instances Africanised.

The play is about Wamala, a simple teacher whose job was thumbing pieces of chalk, who on
the eve of independence, miraculously finds himself as a minister with all the associated luxuries
befitting the office.

Unfortunately for Wamala, his over-riding ambition to climb an extra rank up and a ready audience
to cheer him on brings about his downfall.

Wamala is left with nothing apart from a nagging wife, Tinka, a highly sensitive son, Kaija, and a
daughter, Nyakake. Wamalas past becomes an irritation and he fails to come to terms with this

He relives his past through reminiscences, day dreams and reveries. He fails to grasp the realities
in the world head-on and resorts to heavy drinking and adultery.

He frequently insults and beats up his wife when she accuses him of adultery and coming home
late. Consequently, he fails in his marital and family obligations.

In bid to extricate himself from the biting poverty, Wamala comes up with a slogan syndicate
scheme to get quick money from politicians. He also comes up with the idea of the safety matches
with two heads as a way of saving money by the common poor man. This scheme is never bought
due to the negative social and economic implications.

Tinka comes to terms with reality and to make ends meet, she is preoccupied with weaving mats,

brewing enguli (crude gin) and providing for the family. She turns the children against their father
by making them aware of her role as husband and father in the home and the sole bread winner.

Tinka and Kaija convey the abject poverty looming over their household. Kaija is the one who
lacks many things such as a bed of his own. Ironically, Wamala prefers a bottle of alcohol to taking
his daughter to hospital. These children lack the basic needs and they turn out to be burdens to
their parents. Their parents turn out to be the burdens to each other when they no longer can bear
and dare each others guts.

The play among other things diagnoses the effect of politics on an individual and his family, plus
empty-headed ambition. It also shows how destructive failure to come to terms with reality can do
to an individual. The result is family disintegration. Whatever happens to Wamalas family
happens to a good number of families in Africa where children like Kaija and Nyakake end up in
the orphanage.

In such a marriage, both Wamala and Tinka had to guard ones own life as they both became
insecure with each other.


Ruganda, John (1972). The Burdens. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers.

Mooney, Jane (2000). Gender, Violence and Social Order. London: Macmillan Press

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