A call to the pen and the gun: The neo-colonial novel as a writer's allegory – An analysis of Ngugi wa Thiong'o's “A Grain of Wheat, Petals of Blood and Devil on the Cross”
Hutchison, Kathrine L.
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This in depth analysis of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s novels A Grain of Wheat (1967), Petals of Blood (1977), and Devil on the Cross (1982) assesses the role of the writer in the struggle against neo-colonialism in Kenya. Ngugi uses his novels as a personal exercise in rejecting the mindset of the colonizer, which is instilled in every citizen in a post-colonial nation, and he also uses them as a guidebook for other post-colonial writers. He argues in his essays and other writings, particularly “The Writer in the Neo-colonial State,” that the post-colonial writer must join a collective, working class based movement to reject the continued influence of foreign nations on formerly colonized states. The three novels assessed in this analysis demonstrate three phases the post-colonial writer must pass through before he can become an effective agent of the people’s movement. These phases are “the age of the anti-colonial struggle,” “the age of independence,” and “the age of neo-colonialism.” Each novel corresponds with one phase and uses his main characters to instruct the post-colonial writer in gaining release from foreign influence and colonial mindset. The male and female lead characters in each novel demonstrate how to fail or succeed in each of Ngugi’s phases. Taken together, these three novels provide a chronological guide that brings the post-colonial writer from a colonially educated intellectual to an agent of the people’s movement. Through the novels, Ngugi calls all post-colonial writers to complete his three phase process, so they can help their nation reject continued foreign influence.