38 pages 1 hour read

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

A Grain of Wheat

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1967

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Communal Good vs. Individual Good

In a country torn by rebellion and strict government repercussions, the characters often have to make choices between actions for their own benefit or for the benefit of the society.

On the side of personal gain without consideration for the community are Mugo and Karanja. Mugo is mostly concerned with himself and his own small, peaceful existence—when this is interrupted, first by Kihika and later by the members of the Movement who seek to honor him at the Uhuru celebration—he is puzzled and frightened. Karanja also acts for his own good, selling out his countrymen for higher standing with British authorities and browbeating Mumbi into agreeing to sleep with him in exchange for help during the Emergency. His desire to elevate his own position in society often puts him in conflict with his own people, as seen when he became a Chief in the homeguard and later, when the people of Thabai are quick to denounce him as a traitor.

On the other side, willing to do everything for the greater good as they perceive it are Kihika and Mumbi. Kihika has little regard for himself as an individual, throwing himself wholly into the service of the Movement.