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Summary and Analysis of the Novel 'The Interview'

Updated on September 23, 2019

Joe Kimani, a recently high school graduate is among the shortlisted candidates who are required to report at City Soaps Industries, Nairobi for an interview. His hope is to pass the interview and be employed as a lab assistant so that he can help his older brother to offset the school fee arrears he’s owed at the high school he attended. However, the unfolding events that occur before the deadline for the interview compel him to arrive late at City Soaps Industries for the interview. Nonetheless things work out for his benefit as the old woman he had saved, which he learns later, is his grandmother who is the mother of Mr. Njogu, the city’s billionaire and head of City Soaps Industries a subsidiary of Elephant Group of Companies.

Summary of the Chapters

Waking up late, hurriedly bathing with no time to prepare breakfast he heads to the bus stage. While waiting for a matatu (public vehicle) he notices a mentally disturbed old woman in tatters crossing the road. Out of a bend he sees a matatu empty of passengers coming at a full speed. He hears a loud hoot and screech noise. In an instant he jumps into the road, gets hold of the muttering woman and pulls her off the road as he dives to avoid the speeding matatu. While his action saves the woman from the full impact, the vehicle knocks her baggage, throwing her off balance and drags her a few metres against the pavement. The matatu speeds off.

Frustrated, he calls the emergency number in a nearby telephone booth after discerning no one was bothering to call an ambulance. Furthermore, he performs first aid on the old woman when he sees the people who had gathered to stare at the old woman weren't taking any action to help her.

A few minutes later, the siren of an ambulance and police car are heard. A chubby policewoman and two policemen exit the police car. Joe finds himself yet again in a tight spot. None of the bystanders volunteers to say they had witnessed the accident when the policewoman asks who called the police. All eyes look at Joe's direction.

In spite of his protest he's late for the interview, the policewoman, Chief Inspector at the Officer Commanding Station at the police post near Nairobi General Hospital where the old woman will be admitted, tells him that he’s has to go with them to fill the statement form.

After filling the form and answering questions, Margaret Kinyua, the Chief Inspector asks him if he would like to be driven to the interview spot. Joe jumps at the opportunity hoping there might be a chance of being interviewed as he'd explain why he was late.

Before Constable Kilonzo takes Joe at the headquarters of City Soap Industries in a police car, Joe meets Freddie Mwasi, the paramedic who had helped the old woman into the ambulance and into the hospital. He asks him if the old woman has been admitted. Freddie replies she's been admitted and asks Joe if he would like to see her. Joe agrees.

Minutes later, Constable Kilonzo drops Joe at the headquarters of City Soap Industries. As he enters the building, he's unsure how it will turn out.

The receptionist who marks his name on the shortlisted list of interviewees asks him why he's late. He was supposed to have arrived on or before 8.30am. She tells Joe that Mr. Kungu, the personal manager is meticulous with time.

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After asking for direction, he enters the secretary's office. The room is full of young men and women waiting to be interviewed for the position of a lab assistant. The young lady behind the desk asks her why he's late. He explains. She tells him he can inform Mr. Kungu of his presence but he's to wait until the others are interviewed. The secretary informs him that Mr. Kungu will interview him at 11.30 a.m.

He opens and closes the door behind him, figuring it's better to stroll in the city. He hears the door behind him open again and turns to look. It's Gladwell, her close friend. They chat for a couple of minutes before she returns to the waiting room.

The interview wasn't successful. Even after Joe explaining why he's late, the personal manager points out at Joe that the company's policy doesn't tolerate any lateness. Furthermore, they've enough candidates for the job. He tells him he can leave his papers - they may contact him if they aren't satisfied with the already interviewed applicants. He hands Mr. Kungu the application letter and result slip, thanks him and leaves the office an angry man.

David, his older brother is successful in getting him a job at a library. He would be working at the science section of the library.

Joe has two sisters apart from his brother, David. Their parents were killed during ethnic cleansing. Joe and his two sisters were lucky to escape the death that befell their parents. Their mother's younger brother, Uncle Jotham accommodated all of them. David was staying with Uncle Jotham in Nairobi while completing his final year at a high school. He didn't live through the horrors his younger siblings had experienced as a result of ethnic clashes.

Joe doesn't understand why he feels the ‘push’ to visit the old woman at the hospital. She had regained her consciousness. Additionally, she could talk soberly unlike before whereby she would utter meaningless words. The old woman asks Joe to promise him that he would find where her relatives live. Joe together with the doctor and nurse who are administering the old woman meet aside to discuss where to start in search of her relatives.

In the library Joe comes across an advert in one of the local newspapers. He stares at the face of the old woman and a reward for anyone who would find the man's mother. Joe is unsuccessful in convincing the man he calls through the library's telephone concerning his mother. The old woman on the advert of the paper is the old woman admitted in the hospital, the woman who Joe had saved. The man on the other end, who is the son of the old woman, ends the call.

Joe requests the library's receptionist to call the number again. Joe doesn't give the man, who happens to be a billionaire and the owner of the Elephant Group of Companies a chance to talk. Joe tells him when he first attempted to call him; the idea of money wasn't in his mind. If he doesn't believe he should go to the hospital and gave him the number of the ward his mother was admitted.

Joe calls Gladwell to accompany him to the hospital to see the old woman. At the ward, they are notified by Doctor Ochieng that the old woman's relatives had come to pick her up. Joe becomes disappointed though he doesn’t know why.

For a few days Joe had ben living like a zombie, not in touch with reality. Afterwards, he tells himself why he should be unhappy while what he wanted is for the old wan to be rejoined with her relatives.

A few days pass before Joe is approached by the son of Mr. Njogu, the billionaire at the library where he is working. He is taken to Mr. Njogu's residence located in a luxurious estate. The old woman had asked her son where Joe was and that she'd not eat until she sees him.

Mr. Njogu gives Joe the reward of Kshs. 200,000 instead of Kshs. 100,000 he had originally offered to anyone who would find his mother; and 40,000 to pay his school fee arrears. He is also offered a job at the main plant, Elephant Group of Companies where he'll start learning about chemical engineering before going to campus.

Mr. Njogu asks Joe the address of David having learned Joe had a brother who’s working as an accountant. Tony leaves the room to give instructions to the chauffeur where to pick up Joe’s brother.

During the conversation, the old woman realizes that Joe is her grandson and Joe's father who was killed together with his mother was her son. Mr. Kungu and Mr. Njogu were cousins. David had heard a bit of the discussion before the people in the room felt a new presence therein.

It is a happy reunion as Joe and David have brought with them Lucy and Mary, their sisters. Joe had invited Gladwell to come with them which she agreed out of curiosity. The women dance - Mr. Njogu's wife, Joe's grandmother, his cousin, Joyce and Gladwell while men watch them, fighting hard not to shed tears.

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Themes

1. Tribal Clashes/Cleansing

Mr. Njogu gives Joe the reward of Kshs. 200,000 instead of Kshs. 100,000 he had originally offered to anyone who would find his mother; and 40,000 to pay his school fee arrears. He is also offered a job at the main plant, Elephant Group of Companies where he'll start learning about chemical engineering before going to campus.

Mr. Njogu asks Joe the address of David having learned Joe had a brother who’s working as an accountant. Tony leaves the room to give instructions to the chauffeur where to pick up Joe’s brother.

During the conversation, the old woman realizes that Joe is her grandson and Joe's father who was killed together with his mother was her son. Mr. Kungu and Mr. Njogu were cousins. David had heard a bit of the discussion before the people in the room felt a new presence therein.

It is a happy reunion as Joe and David have brought with them Lucy and Mary, their sisters. Joe had invited Gladwell to come with them which she agreed out of curiosity. The women dance - Mr. Njogu's wife, Joe's grandmother, his cousin, Joyce and Gladwell while men watch them, fighting hard not to shed tears.

2. Poverty

When the fighting had begun, David was living with Uncle Jotham in Nairobi. He was in his last year of secondary school. A year later, David and Joe moved to a bedsitter in Umoja, Nairobi. He had completed his secondary education and a six-month's accounts course and got a job as a bookkeeper in a local firm.

David catered for most of the needs of his younger brother. However, with the increasing cost of living he was unable to keep up with Joe's school fees. The school owed Joe Kshs. 40,000 by the time he’d completed his final year. Thus, he wasn't given the certificate of secondary education which was very important. Joe had hoped he would get the job as a lab assistant at City Soap Industries. He prayed they would accept his result slip. He was in need of a job to help his brother in offsetting the school fee arrears.

When Tony, Mr. Njogu's son took Joe to their home residence in a flashy estate, Muthaiga; Joe was mesmerized at the stately mansions he saw. Joe had never seen the elegant mansions displaying the large gap that exists between the poor and the rich. Even at Mr. Njogu's house, Joe couldn't contain his amazement. "He just gazed and gaped stupidly at the expensive items in the room which displayed affluence to the point of obscenity and arrogance.”

3. Prevalence of Sexual Transmitted Disease - HIV/AIDS

After consoling Gladwell at the death of her sister, he asks her whether her sister had died of tuberculosis. Gladwell hesitates then says, “Well, for quite some time. It began as just a normal cough, but it eventually grew from bad to worse.” Gladwell didn’t divulge to Joe immediately the real cause of her sister’s death.

In another scenario, Joe sees a crowd that has gathered at one end of the hospital where the old lady is admitted. After visiting the old lady at the ward she’s admitted, he asks Doctor Ochieng about the man who had jumped from the eighth floor. Joe is astonished when the doctor tells him the man who committed suicide was a pastor.

Later that day, Joe tells Gladwell of a pastor who had committed suicide. It’s at that moment Joe learns Gladwell’s sister had died of AIDS. Gladwell tells him, “TB, pneumonia, what is the difference? She was HIV positive. We all knew at home, but it could not be public. Now that she is dead, it doesn’t matter.” Gladwell’s family didn’t disclose Georgina was HIV positive or she had died of AIDS. This depicts how the disease was spreading at a high rate noting the current vaccine was under trial. Furthermore, the fact Gladwell’s family never disclosed what Georgina was suffering from or what caused her death is a sure sign victimization against the virus-disease infected was widespread.

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4. Moral Decay

Joe was astonished to learn from Doctor Ochieng the man who leaped from the eighth floor was a pastor. He had expected of all people, a pastor couldn’t engage himself in a behaviour that would lead him to get the disease. The disease was mostly associated with people who committed adultery or pre-marital sex.

The doctor told him, “We know bishops, doctors and other important dignitaries who have succumbed to the disease…No one is out of reach so long as they continue indulging in risky activities.”

One would expect a servant or minister of God or people who hold respectable positions in government or companies to uphold what is right - act as role models to the society. If they are engaging in activities that bring out negativity what would become of the young people who have to learn from or emulate them? What are they portraying to the society?

5. Insensitiveness/Inconsideration

In his office, the personal manager asked the nervous young man why he was late for the interview. Even after questioning him about the accident he witnessed, Mr. Kungu told him, “I’m sorry, Mr. Kimani, but we can’t hire you. You see you failed the interview when you didn’t show up. We only consider those who are on time.”

While lateness isn’t encouraged in any institution, some circumstances are unavoidable due to their nature. In Joe’s instance, he couldn’t help it. The policewoman wanted him to fill the statement form at the police station. He tried to argue against it but it was mandatory because he’d witnessed it and it would help the police in investigating the accident and arrest the driver who hit the woman and drove away. The personal manager was unreasonable in turning him down. Sometimes rules can be broken because they don’t apply in every situation or they are unreasonable in certain circumstances.

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6. Empathy/Consideration

Joe had saved the old woman from being hit by the matatu. He had called the emergency number at a nearby telephone booth while others were just looking at the unconscious old woman while talking. In addition, he would visit the old woman to find out how she’s doing which showed he cared for her even though the bloodline played a big role of his need to know how the old woman was fairing on.

Doctor Ochieng, the nurse (Mildred) and Gladwell were willing to assist Joe in finding the old woman’s relatives. This shows they were concerned about the old woman. They didn’t want the old woman to end in the streets.

When Mr. Njogu learned about Joe and his siblings, he opted to sponsor Joe in studying degree in chemical engineering at a higher institution. Before embarking on the study of chemical engineering, Joe was told by Mr. Njogu he would work at the main plant signifying not only would he learn practically the course he would study but would also earn in the process.

© 2019 Benny Njuguna

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