38 pages 1 hour read

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

A Grain of Wheat

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1967

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Chapters 1-3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1

Chapter 1 Summary

Mugo wakes from a fitful sleep in the Kikuyu village of Thabai, established only eight years earlier when the British forced people from their homes on the surrounding ridges into this central location. As he walks through the village, residents anticipating Kenya’s forthcoming Uhuru, or day of independence, greet Mugo excitedly. One of these people is the one-legged Githua, who regards Mugo as a hero.

Mugo passes the hut of an old woman whose son deaf Gitongo was killed at the beginning of the Emergency. Frightened by the arrival of the British soldiers, he rushed through the village to protect his mother. A soldier ordered him to stop, but not hearing him, Gitongo kept going and was shot to death. Mugo visited the old woman after his release from detention, but became frightened of the way she looked at him.

As Mugo works the soil, he remembers his childhood. After his parents died, he was left in the care of an aunt who was often drunk and violent toward him. One night Mugo fantasized aloud about strangling his aunt with his bare hands, but she only laughed at him.

Mugo returns home for the day and settles into his customary solitude when there is a knock at the door.