Discuss the characterization and the role of Mumbi in the novel ” A Grain of Wheat”
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In the novel “A Grain of Wheat” written by Ngugi WA Thiong’o the character of Mumbi can be described as a beautiful and very influential figure for example “her eyes were soft and submissive and defiant”. With her beauty and natural charisma she is used to link all the important themes, ideas, characters and even some of the symbols of the novel. Ngugi makes use of a number of different themes to convey his ideologies, it is in these themes that the reader come across the specific characteristics of Mumbi and can really come to terms with the novel from a female point of view.
Mumbi is the only central character in the novel that is female. This fact is a message from Ngugi to the reader telling them that Mumbi is to be a significant part of the novel. She is also Kihika’s sister. Kihika is the most idolized character in the novel. He is considered the leader of the people and leads the movement. With Kihika being like this Ngugi brings Mumbi into the novel with a jumpstart on the other characters. She is of the same bloodlines of Kihika so the reader can expect to see important things coming from her.
Mumbi is an object of great interest and affection. She is courted by both Karanja and Gikonyo. Ngugi uses the affection of Karanja and Gikonyo to foreshadow the underlying animosity between the Whiteman and the Kenyan People. Karanja represents the Whiteman while Gikonyo represents the Kenyan people. Gikonyo represents the Kenyan people because it was him that went to the detention camps for 6 years to protect the oath of the Mau Mau. In contrast to this Karanja confessed the oath immediately and then became the creature of the Whiteman. He turned on his own people and destroyed hope in some of their eyes. Mumbi chose Gikonyo as her husband; this however did not deter Karanja. He still loved Mumbi and wanted to possess her.
When he was working as an officer for the British he would sneak her food and other supplies in a vain attempt to win her through gratitude. Mumbi held out through all of this. She showed her resilience and sis herself justice until Karanja, now Chief, informed her that Gikonyo was to return from the detention camps. Mumbi was so overjoyed that she let herself be taken by Karanja. In Karanja’s eyes this was a glorious victory over Gikonyo, this victory was intensified when Mumbi became great with child. Gikonyo, upon coming back saw the child and felt he had been betrayed. Ngugi therefore uses Mumbi as symbol of misunderstanding.
Mumbi is close to a number of characters, this is demonstrated when Mumbi is the person that Mugo confesses his secret to. She is also an intelligent enough person that she realizes not to tell anyone else the secret.
To conclude Mumbi is “the most beautiful girl of all the eight ridges.” She is respected and held in high regard by other characters and is an object of love and affection for some. Her predicament with her and Gikonyo is only a fault that all humans have in them. It can be excellently summed up by Oscar Wilde when he said, “I can resist everything except temptation.”