The story of Chirundu is set in an independent Central African territory. Various geographical and historical references in the novel identify this territory as Zambia. In Chirundu Mphahlele is primarily concerned with the nature of political power in ex-colonial Africa and the problem of adapting traditional cultures to modern social structures. The personal relationships of the main characters represent situations and relationships which exist between various groups in the society. Mphahlele examines the choices for the individual and the society as a whole, operating as they do between African and Western institutions. Social relationships, in this context, Mphahlele shows, become 'largely incoherent, pulling against and contradicting each other'.' The situation which Mphahlele describes for a particular Central African territory may be regarded as a paradigm for all ex-colonial African societies which show social structures which are inconsistent in themselves because of social and political pressures which operate in contrary directions.
Johnson, Joyce, Culturally Derived Motifs and Symbols as Structural Features in Es'kia Mphahlele's Chirundu, Kunapipi, 6(2), 1984.