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The Role Of Women In " A Grain Of Wheat "

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The role of women in "A grain of wheat "

Though being a political narrative, the presence of women to strengthen the quality and reality of the novel is undeniable. Critic Abdulzarak Gurnah says: "Ngugi's writing is never far from the subject" and this is perfectly applicable for his description of the African women. However, being rather objective he also points a picture of the white women who though being secondary characters play a certain role in the novel.

Ngugi through the depiction of the ideal patriotic women pays great tribute to the African women especially in those dark days. The strength and courage of certain black women is incontestable in relating the fight for freedom. Ngugi through the persons of Wambui and Mumbi clearly shows us that though the men were fighting openly, the war led by the women was as much important as theirs. An example would be Wambui's "now-famous drama at the workers' strike in 1950," how through her words and the common action of women they had revived the strength of men. There is also the comic episode of how Wambui "once carried a pistol tied to her thighs near the groins" where behind the comic account of the incident, Ngugi portrays the courage and role of women in freedom fighting. Also he wants to demonstrate that if African women had not been such an inner-force, Kenya would have never been what it is to-day. This argument is illustrated by Mumbi's inner-force during the Emergency period. She is in fact the character who depicts the ideal African woman according to Ngugi. Strong, beautiful, both and furthermore mother of a child, her strength during that period if far than admirable, "In the end, she tied a belt around her waist and took on a man's work". Far from the sensual woman she appears in Chapter 7, Ngugi as a writer of protest literature wants to demonstrate to what extent the African women can prove to be both unmanly and take the role of men when need be. Though being portrayed as very strong, one specific character of the African woman according to the author is the ability to play a completely different role which is that of the submissive woman or rather wife.

Once again, this view is illustrated through Mumbi who despite having survives during such harsh times, has to bear the authority of Gikonyo at home,

'I'll make you shut this mouth of a whore,' he cried out, slapping her on the left cheek...

However, Ngugi does not seem to criticize this attitude of Mumbi; her attitude as a weakness, the author transforms this into a strength by the characters. This argument is reinforced b y Mumbi;s mother, Wanjiku,

The women of to-day surprise me. They cannot take a slap, soft as feather, or the slightest breath, from a man. In our time, a woman could take blow and blow from her husband without a thought of running back to her parents.

If we analyse the legends of the Amazons told in Chapter 2 and considering the fact that Africans are attached to their glorious past, we can put forward that the inner-power in woman are strongly attached to these values which have been transmitted from generations to generations.

This argument is closely linked to another theme of the novel which is that of motherhood. The strength of woman is not only depicted through their role as wife but also through their role as mothers. It can be noted that all the women characters ranging from the youngest generation - Mumbi to the oldest one, Wambui - have shown a great strength when it comes to the question of their child. The story of Wanjiku is such an example which demonstrates how well a woman can overcome all the obstacles for the sake of her child, "and holding the child to her breast she hurled an unspoken challenge to Waruhiu..." It is obvious that Ngugi greatly admires the role of a mother for he pays respect to all the mothers in the novel. We notes that Mumbi accepts everything from the part of Gikonyo but loses her control when he touched the child, "Mumbi stood up, and for a minute anger blocked her throat." Further the last words of the novel are dedicated to that of a woman and a child, "I shall carve a woman big-big with



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