Discuss the presentation of the theme of sacrifice in the novel "A Grain of Wheat" by Ngugi wa Thiong'o.

Essay by RaymondWongUniversity, Master'sA-, August 2005

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The idea that sacrifice is required before Kenya attains true nationhood, is one of a range of ideas - others being birth, betrayal, heroism and forgiveness - in the novel "A Grain of Wheat", by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. It is conveyed through the words and actions of many characters (especially Kihika, Mugo and to a lesser extent Gikonyo), rather than through the author telling us, since the narration is that of a third person. Ngugi explains that sacrifice is needed for the greater good of the nation, and of the people. The author insists that all members of a community must individually and collectively accept responsibility for its growth and well-being.

The person in the novel, who epitomises the theme of sacrifice, is Kihika, the past leader of the Movement. Kihika is, for better or worse, the leader most associated with the Christian qualities including sacrifice. Although at first he merely thinks of himself as a saint and a leader, he later talks, and is talked about, in clearly Christ-like terms.

General R, for example, refers to Kihika's death, as a "crucifixion". Kihika believes in sacrifice for the greater good of national liberation, and regards it as Christ-like. This is emphasised when Kihika says, "I die for you, you die for, we become a sacrifice for one another."

Ngugi wa Thiong'o also uses the character of Mugo to present and convey the theme of sacrifice, through his death and betrayal of Kihika. Initially, the villagers of Thabai ask Mugo to lead the Uhuru celebrations, in recognition of what they take to be his "heroic sacrifice", by housing Kihika "without fear". This in fact is false, when Mugo was the one "that betrayed the black people everywhere on the earth".

Furthermore when Kihika at a Movement meeting in...