Character-based criticisms of A Grain of Wheat (1967) have often focused on Ngũgĩ's privileging of individual subjectivity and alienation, but little attention has been paid to the fact that some of the pivotal characters of the novel embody the condition of subalternity of Kikuyu peasants at the bottom of a socioeconomic and gendered power system in a colonial society. Putting the novel in the historical context of the polarized field of representation of the Mau Mau conflict and the ambivalence of allegiance among Kikuyu peasants, this paper examines Ngũgĩ's construction of the subaltern in Mugo and Mumbi not as a representation of bourgeois individualism but rather as an articulation of silence in the language of betrayal. It places the novel's foregrounding of betrayal and silence in both the historical context of Kenya's transition to independence and the biographical intertext of Ngũgĩ's turn to activism.


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pp. 158-176
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