Introduction & Overview of The Green Leaves

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The Green Leaves Summary & Study Guide Description

The Green Leaves Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Bibliography on The Green Leaves by Grace Ogot.

Grace Ogot's short story "The Green Leaves," from her 1968 collection of short stories called Land without Thunder, was published by the East African Publishing House in Nairobi, Kenya. Many of the stories in this collection are loosely based on tales that her grandmother told her as a young girl growing up in rural western Kenya. More than simply folk tales, Ogot's short stories also reflect, through the traditional genre of the folk tale, a number of recent developments in Kenya's history, in particular its colonial past and subsequent national independence movement, its changing gender roles, and its economic and urban growth. All these developments have contributed to Kenya's passage from a traditional agrarian culture to a modern, urban society. Much of the social turmoil that attends such rapid change is revealed in her stories.

In the Introduction to their book Challenging Hierarchies: Issues and Themes in Colonial and Postcolonial African Literature, authors Leonard Podis and Yakubu Saaka have articulated five common features found in African literature. The list is as follows: using proverbs and aphorisms, depicting social customs, incorporating myths, relating politics to social and cultural issues, and writing in a concise style. These criteria are relevant while reading Ogot's work as well as other writers' work produced during the African wars for independence against European colonizers. The cultural disruptions due to British colonialism is a major theme of many works written by postcolonial African writers such as Chenua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Tayeb Salih, and Flora Nwapa.

As a writer coming of age at the time of Kenyan independence in 1963, Ogot turned to the conflicts that occurred between the Luo people and the colonialists as a source for her stories. In particular, the early stories of Ogot, such as "The Green Leaves," reveal the tenuous grasp that many indigenous cultures in Kenya had on their traditional ways of life with the takeover of Kenya's political and economic infrastructure by British colonial forces. This is rendered in the scene in which tension flares between the clan leader Olielo and the white policeman over the "right" way to deal with robbery. The two different systems of justice are brought into conflict with the traditional way, that of murdering the thief, being seen as barbaric and outdated.

Not only does Ogot reflect on the injustices of the colonial system in Kenya, but she also contributes to an aspect of literature that, for the most part, was overlooked by many African writers who at the time were predominantly male: the experiences of being a black African woman. Specifically, her stories often reveal the limitations of men and the inability of women to make a cultural impact due to being dis empowered by patriarchy within both traditional and colonial societies. Thus, Ogot brings a dual perspective to her works that centers on issues of oppression due to gender and complicated by nationality and colonialism.

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