A Grain of Wheat

How does Ngugi express the ideas about culture in A Grain of Wheat?

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The characters in the novel each see Kenya and Uruhu from individual unique perspectives. They, however, cannot fully see each other's truths and each other's lives. The biggest divisions that separate them are those of culture. The white upper class is British. They bring with them not only British technology, soldiers, and weapons, but also British culture. Culture is what Thompson desperately wants to impose upon Africa, and he sees British culture as the height of human accomplishment. He doesn't truly understand that the Kenyans also have a culture, and he cannot accept that the culture of Kenyans could be equivalent in value to the culture of the British.

Meanwhile, the Kenyans do not see the British perspective. The British are merely tyrants and oppressors. There is nothing redeeming in Thompson to Mugo, when Thompson is spitting in his face or whipping him. "These people" are not human to Gikonyo, Kihika, or Mugo, just as Thompson does not consider the Kenyan men and women truly people.

All people look at the world from their own unique perspective. The people of the town see Mugo from one perspective, as a hero, while he is unaware of the people's admiration and is torn up with guilt. The townspeople see Gikonyo as successful and admirable, a businessman who has pulled himself together after detention. Meanwhile, Gikonyo's own perspective is that his life has fallen apart since returning from detention. The disparity between a private life and public appearance is a microcosm of the rift between culture and culture.

Source(s)

A Grain of Wheat, BookRags