A Grain of Wheat and the Theme of Betrayal
Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s exploitation of the theme of betrayal in his 1967 novel A Grain of Wheat, questions loyalty, fidelity and respect. The main plot in the novel is the betrayal of the Kihika, by extension the Movement, by Mugo. We see the betrayal of the marriage vows, however within this level of betrayal Ngugi portrays it two ways: in an illicit but welcomed love affair and when the need to survive usurped the need for loyalty in the husband’s absence. We will also examine the betrayal of the black/ local man against and with the white man/ foreigners.
At the beginning of the novel we meet Mugo in a dark and gloomy hut. He is caught up in a nightmare that rocks his mental and physical state. From head-on in the novel we are informed that he has a deep and dark secret that is eating away at his sanity. It isn’t until latter on that we get that it stems from some involvement in Kihika’s murder. Mugo held dreams where he led a better life. All Mugo wanted was to escape the Emergency untouched. He, however, had not planned on ‘habouring’ a ‘terrorist’ one night when there were armed guards patrolling the village. Though this encounter occurs mid- chapter 13, Ngugi hints to us throughout that Mugo’s mind wanders back to that night. He knows that Kihika is wanted by the white government officials for his rebellion against colonialism. His determination to be segregated from the whole affair leads him to turn against the man the village holds to and within their bosoms with pride and high respect. His jealousy towards Kihika fuels Mugo’s hatred towards the man. When he realizes that all the ideals he thought he would gain from handing Kihika’s location over to the white fails, he is left with nothing but the shame and guilt of his actions. Mugo also compares himself to the people in the bible. He compares Judas’ betrayal of Jesus to what he himself has done.
We see the betrayal of the people’s trust in two...