A Grain of Wheat Major Character Analysis

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

A Grain of Wheat

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A Grain of Wheat Major Character Analysis


Mugo, the book’s central character, connects in some way to almost every other character. He betrays Kihika, is violently beaten by John Thompson, hears the confessions of Gikonyo and Mumbi, intervenes in the savage beating of Kihika’s girlfriend, and forms a strange, spiritual connection with the old woman whose “deaf and dumb” son was killed during the Emergency. In a sense, Mugo’s interconnectedness is almost Dickensian, although there is no element of comic relief within A Grain of Wheat. If the circumstances were different, Mugo could be seen as the central figure in a comedy of errors. Although he is harboring the dark secret that he betrayed Kihika to the white man and tries to live a quiet life without any connection to the people of Thabai, he finds himself suddenly thrust into the limelight of the Uhuru celebrations and revered as a hero. His protests that he is no hero and wants no part of the celebration only increase the villager’s admiration of him. Mugo himself is a person who just wishes to be left alone, to live a modest life without interference from others. It is for this reason, not a personal hatred of Kihika or the Movement that he commits his act of betrayal. When he is dragged into a communal sense of responsibility – the digging of the trench around Thabai – Mugo takes action against the cruel beating of a woman (not realizing this is Kihika’s girlfriend). He also steps forward during the Uhuru celebrations to confess his act, thus saving Karanja.


Kihika is worshipped by the Kikuyu people as a hero for his actions during the emergency. As a young man, he left his comfortable home and ran to the forest to join a band of rebels, almost immediately after promising his girlfriend that he would not do this. He was credited with a raid on a major British armory, which provided weapons and ammunitions for the Mau Mau, and was the man responsible for the death of the cruel administrator Thomas Robson. As a young man, Kihika was deeply involved in religion; a…

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