Story 2:INCIDENT IN THE PARK: Meja Mwangi
Episodes / sub-episodes
l. The description of the city park in August afternoon. (p6 – 7).
- Two idlers’ dialogue at the pond. – 10).
- An ambush by two city constables in the park ending in violence.
- The fruit merchant condemned unheard. (p 12).
The incident in the park, by Meja Mwangi, is a contemporary episode set in the city park and its environs where most citizens, hustlers and workers, spend most of their time as an Outdoor recreation center. We know it is the popular Uhuru Park in Nairobi through its vivid description. Metaphorically described, the park is seriously affected by the drought in August. There is a dirty lake at its base, and to the west, up the hill,
a cathedral, modern fortresses and ministerial Offices overlooking the park below, and across it is the city itself. A highway, Uhuru highway, separates the park from the city, and on it, there is heavy traffic. In the east, parliament and two city clocks are seen.
Therefore, the park provides a relaxing haven (chilling point) and a source of solace for the misplaced, lost or frustrated masses flocking the city daily. This has attracted many people. Including peddlers trying to make ends meet and idlers killing time here. The city hungry office workers also buy cheap snacks during the lunch hour and return to their stations. Others rush down to River Road to buy chips and roast meat as the loiterers watch the Spectre in a jiffy.
Soon, the park is left with a few idlers and peddlers. Under the slightest shade lie men sheltering from the scorching sun. Watchers watch rowers paddling, reacting to the maxim that spectating is the next best thing to participating. A loafer keeps dropping debris to the fish pond despite the warning inscription on a board. Another man joins him, and a dialogue ensues, and they share a cigarette. An incident erupts when two city constables demand to see the license of the ice cream man and a fruit seller. The Old man helplessly searches and realizes he doesn’t have it. Worse. He has no identity card, so he offers the five shillings he has, for he fears the judge and going to jail. He begs for forgiveness, offering all the fruits in vain. On seeing they are unimpressed,he flees to find refuge in the crowded city, and the cops chase him. He is nabbed by a man on the highway and
eventually falls into a ditch. There, the poor man is condemned unheard of for being a ‘thief’.
Title of the story
What is the significance of the title Incident in the park?
What is ironic about the two constables’ behavior at the park? How else do the people spend time at the park?
With evidence from the text, discuss the urban problem that leads to the destitution of the masses.
How does the city’s jobless population escape their wretchedness?
Compare and contrast the city workers and the jobless masses.
What are the harsh realities of city life and the illusion of a better, promising life?
How does the rural-urban influx affect people’s lives?
What does the presence of butts, used matches and stubs at the park tell you?
How does the lack of identity cards and license affect peddlers?
Juxtapose the kind of identification the police demand from the fruit vendor and one that awaits him at the mortuary.
Referring closely to the fruit-seller show how the mob and the legal system administer justice.
Why does the merchant resort to flight and fight for his life instead of overcoming his fright for the justice system?
Who is to blame for the death of the fruit-seller, the constables, the public, or the vendor himself?
What lessons can be taken from the incident at the city park?
What does the fruit seller’s mention of the ‘tyrant judge’ tell us about the justice system?
Problems of urbanization
Urban population growth, driven by migration and searching for jobs, has become a significant issue in cities like Nairobi.
However, the masses end up frustrated due to a skills mismatch in the labor market, dwindling economy and poor governance. But every now and then, a misplaced person rose with a start… (p7).
In a few seconds, the thousand or so strong swarm had been swallowed up by the yawning concrete jungle… (p7).
Urban poverty is also witnessed as many remain loitering and idling reminding the park loungers just how many hours they had wasted lying idle.’ (p7). ‘A shaggy thin man sat under a shrub…’ (p7). ‘Hairy loafer’ (p8). ‘The idler seated on the bank…’ (p8) torn trouser legs.’ (p8)
‘horny toes. (p9L
There is also evidence of poor hygiene. The park is littered with debris, cigarette ends and butts. (p8, 9). The two gentlemen share puffs on the cigarette. One offers a full cigarette, and smoking in this zone could be a form of escapism from their poverty. (p10).
• The fruit seller has only ten shillings which he offers to the constables to spare him. He cannot afford to pay for the license, or even the fine has on another case.
Conflicts between city authority and street hawkers
When the two constables accost and demand licenses from the ice cream man and the fruit peddler, they tell the merchant that he will only explain to the judge.
- The fruit seller already has a case and is trying to sell to afford a fine. (pl 1). The fruit seller pleads with the constables, who say nothing. 7hefruit seller cursed them and their wives and children… (PI 1).
- Mob justice / Social injustice
- The fruit seller is lynched unknowingly by the park people. By the time the constable ran up, the fruit-peddler lay like a broken and twisted ragdoll at the bottom of the ditch. (p12)
- He cries and pleads for mercy in vain. . had drawn thick red blood over the sparsely bearded face. Dead’ was his verdict (p12)
- The word ‘thief’ hovered over the assembled crowd. mob universally condemns him, and it is impossible to tell from which mouth the condemnation is issued. (p12)
- Ironically the mob had had what was right. Justice fairly quickly and completely administered … (PI 2).
The fruit seller
- He is a poor old man who sells fruits at the park. He has no license or identity card. (pl l)
- He is a responsible man as he remembers he has a family which depends on him when accosted. I have a wife and children and… (PI 1).
- He is hardworking because he sells fruits (two baskets) to earn his living despite being unable to afford a license. (PI l)
He is afraid and fearful that he will be fined or be castrated by the tyrant judge. (pl l)
Style and language use
- What figures of speech does the writer use to describe the park and events in the park?
- Why is it ironic for the fruit peddler to flee from the constables and lose his life?
A comprehensive and detailed guide to a silent song and other stories
3. Explore the use of dialogue in Meja Mwangi’s Incident in the Park.
1. Urban centers are riddled with frequent conflicts with innocent Citizens. Discuss the truth of this assertion based on Meja Mwangi’s Incident in the Park. (20 marks).