A Grain of Wheat, Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Essay by aishamalik12 September 2004

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This is a powerful book by Ngugi Wa Thiongo and it is set in pre-independence days in Kenya in the early 1950's - 60's. The place, a rural village in the heart of central Kenya, and through Ngugi's eyes, the landscape becomes alive with the sights, sounds and smells of the area. The book is centered around Mugo, a man affected by his childhood, the years in the State of Emergency, and his own demons within. Rejected his father and brought up by a disgruntled Aunt shaped Mugo into the man we see today.

During the time of the State of Emergency, life was unkind, hard and brutal. The joys and tensions of this time in his life, reflected in other characters in the book leaves you feeling their hearts in a way that makes one wish that they too could have been there in that day and moment in time.

Each character has something within them that we can all relate to. Being a woman, I related to Mumbi, proud, beautiful young woman with a mind of her own and a love for her brother Kihika, and family. Her strength is admirable, and can be described, to borrow a phrase from a movie, "The greatest honor a family could have was to have a daughter like you".

Another character that gave me insight into the soul of a man was Gikonyo. The epitome of manhood- strong, decent, hardworking, industrious and you'll find he is a lot more than what you would initially expect. The State of Emergency was a time when brother turned against brother, families lived in fear of their brethren and the ruling colonialists. It was a time when anyone was arrested on suspicions of being a member of the MauMau. And the MauMau fought to...