LITR 5831 World / Multicultural Literature: Tragedy & Africa

Lecture Notes

Grain of Wheat notes



Dear Tragedy-Africans, Assuming “university closed today” also means “tonight” (& don’t ask me how “code green” means “don’t drive to campus”), our seminar won’t meet tonight, 18 April, 7-10.


I’ve adjusted our website at for next week’s agenda (i.e. 25 April):

review Oedipus at Colonus: instructor

Gospel at Colonus: Heather


begin Grain of Wheat


Hanna, your final Bacchae presentation is now scheduled for our last class, 2 May, and our final Birth of Tragedy reading for 2 May is canceled, though I may synopsize.

Otherwise, please maintain your reading schedule for Grain of Wheat (app. half-way, through ch. 7, p. 121) for next week.

Also please preview the following websites for Grain of Wheat that I planned for tonight:

Text guide: A Grain of Wheat (annotations for settings, characters, and unusual terms—helpful b/c novel is told through flashbacks verging on stream-of-consciousness)

Kenya (some political history b/c central event and flashbacks occur at Kenya’s Independence celebrations in 1963 and, from decade before, anti-colonial Mau Mau uprising led primarily by Kikuyu people—like main characters)

Hope you’re all OK—welcome to communicate—I’ve drafted discussion questions but may update as I prepare for next Monday. Till then—





10 women ruled, men no property

38 how many wives?

220 ghosts of colonial past

175 those buried in the earth

168 child not responsible for birth (Africa?)


Western Civilization and Africa (modern / traditional)

74 technology

87 guns and boats

88 people > born

106 same thing over and over through history

132 do  unexpected

148 Kariuki, education

149 > school, future

156 sixty years changes

181 women of today surprise me



Cf. Mugo, Oedipus as fate—both rise to prestige

Sacrifice—giive yourself, more than self; identity, empathize

6 country sick and dull

24 sacrifice, ritual + 56

104 sickly crops

11 sublime Mmixture of agony and joy)

150-1 sublime

92, 120 men imagine each other with Mumbi

206 unfinished drama

John Thompson as Creon

212 Oedipal drama

221 war not ended

238 no one escape from own actions

245 moral distribution > desire to carve stool



12 Harry, Bible, literacy

53 millennial desire

98 forgootten land

99 born again

134 new Jerusalem

137 Kihika hanged on tree

144 end of world

144 Judas

201 new heaven and earth

217 independent churches


Pre-colonial, colonial, postcolonial

12 iron snake > 33 evil spirit; human sacrifice

12 Harry learns Bible, sues against + literacy

12 red strangers: Bible > sword

14 Kenyatta from land of whiteman

15 universalist religion

26 WW2

33 European, Indian immigrants

48 Africanizing x order

53 Rudyard Kipling, Brit mission in the world: Greadon order, measure

83, 204 syncretism


1 sufuria: flat based, deep sided, lipped and handleless cooking pot or container in Kenya and surrounding nations


2 jembe






Kenyatta, Uhuru na Kazi




3 the Emergency


5 Mau Mau terrorist


6 country sick and dull (cf. Oedipus the King)


7 husband’s rika (“a generational group in Gikuyu society; all of the youths in a given rika are circumcised at the same time, thereby determining their place in the community”)


8 no relation


9 Voices from the Movement



10 Movement, [missionary]

Gikuyu seer: women ruled, men no property

[Queen Victoria]


11 queen in Muranga

Agony and joy [sublime]

“she overreached”

Missionary more land


12 red strangers, bible and sword

Iron snake [hybrid figure]

Harry and literacy > resistance

Waiyaki’s blood > seed, grain

Bond with soil



14 Burning Spear

The history of Kenya


15 Mubia

[Genesis:] sword of flames


The great sacrifice

Terror and hatred

Proverb: Kikulacho


16 capture of Mahee

White Highlands

Concentration camps

Rift Valley




17 Special Branch

Kihika cf. passion of Christ


Chapter 3


18 Gikonyo as hero


19 dance the song



Wambui / woman


20 [libation!}



21 song



22 Kihika prayed, read Bible

Psalm 72


23 Karanja


24 Mugo to lead sacrifice, ritual

Setting in motion a course of action


25 What do they really want

[perspective shifts]

Party / Movement


26 Black Power

Koina former cook

World War 2


27 revolutionary



27-8 Gikonyo emotional in hut?


Chapter 4


33 European and Indian immigrants

Science in dark Africa?



34 Mwaura


36 trivial errands > affected standing of African workers

Good name of white people


37 terrible beauty of a rebellion


38 black mule does not equal end of whitepower

How many wives?

Wound: Mumbi


40 East African Standard


41 Albion



43 Annie Get Your Gun


45 Koina as houseboy


46 wound



Chapter 5


48 earlier vision

> 49 wife


49 African campaigns WW2


51 meteorology


53 Kipling, history of British Empire

Lord Lugard

2 African students, Gold Coast

British mission in the world

Dress, speech, intellectual power

Reason, Order, Measure


54 a great moral idea: all men created equal

Light in darkness

Prospero in Africa

English = attitude

Alterning social and cultural environment


55 administer people > soul

Schweitzer: Negro is a child


56 whiteman / moral ruin / African

Great confession [ritual]


Chapter 6


57 Gikonyo carpenter, contracts

Concentration camps changed him

Cf. Indian traders: investment ethic


58 hoarded

Entered the market


Right time, poured hoardings on market at high price


59 morning after visit to Mugo

Poco preference for Europeans and Indians


Colonial education; Richard Burton

Big oil companies in Nairobi


60 real Harambee spirit


Princess Elizabeth Hwy > Uhuru Hwy


61 Kenyatta Avenue

African schools

MP like a father / headmaster to children [tradition]

Co-op farm



64 as you’ll remember


65 Rira

Only thought of home [tradition]


67 Thompson beat Mugo


68 nothing to confess

I don’t understand anything

Proud of you, resented and hated you



Chapter 7


70 Rung’ei Trading Center (cf. Market in Death and the King’s Horseman)

Indian traders (hoarding > hard times]

African shops < railroad


71 iron snake < Gikuyu seer

Red strangers

Railroad platform meeting place for young (cf. market?)




72 conventions

Immigrant: Gikonyo’s father Warahiu from Elburgeon > Rift Valley, now squatter on European farms; mother Wangari

Warahiu new brides


73 carpentry: fear and wonder



74 uses white prestige to own benefit

White men = these people, clever (technology) cf. 87

Mumbi = land


75 white man: tribal wars > world wars

Gikuyu Independent Schools

Reading x see & hear


76 Karanja as storyteller

Sublime? (train) [cf. 78, 81-2, 150-1]


Cf. OT Esther


77 shillings

Gikonyo and guitar


78 Karanja and guitar

Sublime + unity cf. 76, 81-2, 150-1]


79 cf. Ruth

New song < Kihika


80 panga


81-2 sublime [cf. 76, 78, 150-1]


82 Karanja


83 colonialism + WW2, Hitler

Harry + 1923 Procession

Mission schools x-circumcision?

What [Africans] had seen in Burma . . . India; Gandhi

Word or 2 about Christ

Ngai Gikuyu god = One God who sent Christ [syncretism]

Unfinished game of words and actions


84 Jackson a respected elder

Revivalist movement = fire of vengeance

Lord, what shall I do to be saved? (Pilgrim’s Progress)

“My home is heaven: here on earth I am a pilgrim.”


85 Jackson among first group of Christians to be killed

Mau Mau

Teacher Muniu, police informer?

Kihika, school world of printed world

Cf. Exodus

Circumcision of women, heathen custom


86 Bible for circumcision?


87 Kihiku’s escape from Teacher Muniu

> work on the land

Talked too long

They have got the guns and bombs (cf. 74)


88 example of India—Gandhi: blood, people greater than bomb

Sacrificial martyrdom: ritual mist



89 one Mother-India


90 path to train through small forest


91 dark ritual


92 fashions differed from ridge to ridge


93 millennial desire

Staring into a white blank abyss


94 Kihika: Christ, blood, Gandhi


94-5 conflict b/w Karanja & Kihika


95 a centre in the cross

Deaths which will change things, i.e., true sacrifice


95 mutually avoided

Dance in the wood


96 Police Station, a symbol . . . dominated Kenya


97 Kihiku on railway: road whiteman followed

A man following an idea

Wambuku = land


98 the common shamba, our Kenya

Kihika misinterprets Wambuku (irony)

Separate delusions

Ritual myth of a forgotten land, long ago


99 born again (contrast millennial p. 93)

Mugo (return to present from flashback)

Cf. banana > Kiana

Cooked in the same pot

Change in the man (Gikonyo’s defiance)


100 Kenyatta; Gov. Baring: State of emergency

Kariuki, Mumbi’s younger brother


101 Kihiku > forest to fight

Enough land? Children’s children? (Mbugua)


102 Wambuku: the demon

Njeri x-women’s weaknesses

A cat, men called her (cf. Okonkwo)

“You are my warrior.”


103 concentration camps, named detention camps


104 Gitoyo p. 5

Gikonyu arrested

Six years later

Sickly crops, recent drought (cf. Oedipus)


105 unchanging reality

Reunion with Mumbi = birth of new Kenya



106 same thing over and over again through history


107 oath administrator

Gandhi, Napoleon, Lincoln


108 Russian revolution


109 Gatu symbol of collective resistance

No wood-carvers left

Traditional Gikuyu stools


110 we all have our separate losses


111 Gatu hanged


112 vision of Mumbi


113 Gikonyo confesses


114 [irony] so soon?


115 Karanja’s child!


117 New Thabai Village (modernization)


118 ruins . . . earlier civilization

Collective punishment

Report arrival to the Chief


119 Karanja(!)

God was cruel . . . humiliation


120 learn your lesson

Cf. 92 Gikonyo and Karanja imagine each other with Mumbi



Chapter 8


122 back to present: Gikonyo and Mugo

Decision x-talk about child, x-bed with Mumbi

Ø  hard work


123 guilt, shame

Mugo’s purity

Mugo hints at his own secret: Suppose I had told him


124 last night’s saying from the Bible (He shall save the children of the needy; Psalm 72.4)


125 something is going to happen to you

God: Moses, Moses

Week later: D.O. Robson shot dead > Kihika


126 spectacle

The Uhuru war

People loved good stories


127 General R

Nobody need ever know about Kihika.

To the few, elect of God, the past was forgiven.


129 Kihika’s Bible: Exodus 37: I know their sorrows [cf. Equiano, King]



Chapter 9


131 learned men . . . incident in Rira Camp

Soldiers: it’s the Whiteman, not we


132 Kenyatta in prison

x-answer questions, work

Mugo destined to meet John Thompson again

Torture > enticement

“Do the unexpected” > different man [modernization]


133 x-tell one black face from another—cf. masks


134 political prisoners not criminals—collective letter

Eliminate the vermin (cf. Kurtz)

The now famous beating

>return to present

Mugo’s miraculous escape from death > guiding hand of fate

He, an only son, was born to save

>the new Jerusalem [Messianism of millennialism]


134-5 Mumbi’s voice


135 Mumbi & Kihika brother and sister

+ Kariuki > Uganda, Obote’s kingdom, Makerere College


136 Do you ever dream?

Everybody dreams

x-ordinary dreams, >future

when my brother talked . . . I dreamt of sacrifice


137 whether Wambuku dreamt

The woman you tried to save

Kihika’s woman before

Kihika hanged on a tree

Destroyed herself

Particular homeguard revenge


137-8 Mambi’s son


138 Irimu

A sacrifice . . . she died for my brother

Njeri, secret dream, shot dead in battle

Kihiku: something really secret and important > Mugo


139 about the house? 2 huts?

He does not want to know



140 something in me cracked when I saw our home fall

Breakup at the old Thabai Village

Black man in Nyeri, Mwangi Matemo

Censored, but confirmed


141 Thomas Robson


draw the plan of the hut (Karanja)

her father’s small forest

[rapid change] women + trousers

A new Wangu in England (Elizabeth 2)

The woman’s shauri


142 homeguards . . . more huts to burn down


142-3 Karanja for Mumbi


143 the punishment, the trench

Karanja joins homeguards


144 the end of the world [millennialism]

Could not stop our voices

Mumbi stops narrative, hums tune


145 Thabai was a warning

x-visiting [hospitality; tradition]

rumors: Karanja betrayed Kihika


146 “Judas”

“I did not betray Kihika.”

Every man in the world is alone

Accepts food, ashamed

No child died


148 hope for future, Kariuki and education

> Karanja > chief


148 that knot of guilt that tied me to him

Karanja defends himself

This frightened me

Whiteman bombs forest of Japan and Malaya


149 Kariuki passes KAPE > place in Siriana Secondary School

Taken the oath

Talking about the future [modernization]

Wangui & Mumbi cf. Ruth


150 Karanja & Mumbi


150-1 vision Mugo of earth: life, struggle amid pain blood poverty, seemed beautiful [sublime] [cf. 76, 78, 81-2]


151 What do you want me to do?

General R & Lt Koina

What Githua said about bullets? Never shot

Bullets = maize grains


152 He invents a meaning for his life

Kihika trap: Wambui, Mugo, or Karanja

Koina at Githima


153 puzzled by meaning of what I saw there


Some kind of ghosts . . . make me wonder what celebrating

R: x-God, > Gikuyu & Mumbi (land?)

Find Kihika’s murderer

Mugo to call for murderer (cf. Oedipus?)


Chapter 10


155 [trap for Karanja?]

Mwaura’s reports confirm Karanja’s betrayal of Kihika

The ritual

R’s origins? Name? > Ka-40



156 R = Russia

The little drama to be enacted on Independence Day

Thompson go?

[modernization] 60 years


157 Mrs. Dickinson

Dr. Van Dyke = Boer

Dog incident


158 shame

Odinga Odinga

Karanja shamed for collaborating behavior

Karanja > Githima and Thompson

158 Mwaura


158-9 conspiring, conspire


159 diminutive “Ka”


160 How explain Mugo’s escape from Rira hunger strike? Ten died


162 Mwaura’s mission, lure Karanja to Uhuru ceremony



Chapter 11


163 John Thompson worse treated by government

At centre of scandal at Rira


164 African violence and International Communism

Chinese and Russian embassies

Mrs. Dickinson and Roger Mason

Mrs. Dickinson predicts holocaust

Scene of [John Thompson’s] shame

Biological metaphor


165 Dr Lynd: “I’ll not leave my property to them.”

One fat man with long unkempt beard and bushy eyebrows


166 reminds Margery of worse aspects of Dr. Van Dyke

Broken glass, African cleans, conversation resumes

Not the journey’s end, Africa cannot do without Europe


Chapter 12


167 the boy in dispute


168 child not responsible for birth

Wow: Wangari as mother to both


169 scheme: MP buys Burton farm

Warui’s hut; Gikonyo’s first duty to Party

Warui contented with life


170 Warui not as contented

Wife Mukumi

Stories about birth of the Movement

Gikuyu break with missions

Disappointment: 3 sons—conscripted WW2

Kamau believed power of British


171 the spirit of the black people

Faith, spirit of black people, national heroes


172 old saying true: Kamwena Kabgio ira.

Wambuku’s story cracked M’s inside; released imprisoned

Ran without thinking of road, its origin, end


173-4 Mugo and woman in trench, torture


174 saw man come from dead (in forest)


175 death of deaf-mute boy

Old woman sees son = Mugo

Those buried in the earth should remain in the earth.

Things of yesterday should remain with yesterday.


176 Why did they blame Judas?

Wami + Wambui


177 Mugo’s greatness < modesty; refusing to lead > legendary hero

You have broken your home

Mother in whole conspiracy against his life

You are a man . . . . Read your own heart, and know yourself.



Chapter 13


178 saw him, the man

Mwauga, Ngai > rain, Kenyatta


179 which of us does not carry a weight in his heart?

Mugo . . . ?

Song of trench, village anthem


180 village hero

Wambui’s drama at workers’ strike 1950

Shoe factory

Mithuru & Miengu


181 Mambi and parents

“women of today surprise me” (Wanjiku) [modernization]

>Nairobi with child?

More blood / guilt to land? (Karanja)


182 [personal and political]


184 Is it the camps? No . . . yes—everything. Me.

Whiteman / Mzungu = a devil


185 who murdered Kihika? I strangled him

Eyes always watching you (tribal community) [tradition]


186 Thomas Robson / Tom, the Terror

Bren-gun, Askari


187 assassination . . . brutes

Newspapers: senselessly murdered by Mau Mau thugs [cf. terrorists]

Mugo’s dreams private message, prophecy


188 padlock; hut as extension of dreams

Mugo 25 years old

Dialogue as a strange voice

The voice from God calling out Moses, Moses! Here am I, Lord.


189 knock on door . . . I shot him


190 Kihika!

Could this be the man . . . ?


191 x-turn other cheek

Weapon against: x-Maxim gun, > division

Cf. Exodus

A few shall die that many shall live. That what crucifixion means today.


192 oath confirms; cf. baptism



193 meet in a week at Kinenie Forest

[cf. Afghanistan]


194 avoided conflicts; if you don’t traffic with evil, then evil ought not to touch you [cf. Hamlet]


195 old hatred of Kihika


196 wanted poster > sacrifice


197 concrete logic of a dream

To be great . . . dispense pain and death


198 John Thompson


199 beyond good and evil


200 he did not want the money. He did not want to know what he had done

A corn of wheat


201 new heaven and new earth


203 12 Dec 1963 Uhuru

Jomo, Kaggia, Oginga + Waiyaki


204 words to describe deeds

Christmas songs + songs and dances initiation rites circumcision [syncretism]


203-4 our, we


205 pregnant earth


206 unfinished drama


206-7 Mumbi’s warning note to Karanja


207 irony

Mugo-Mumbi scene resumed



208 knowledge > new dilemma: Karanja or Mugo?


209 the wheel of things



210 Karanja’s last race


211 Mumbi wanted Kikonyo to win and prayed he might lose

Gen. R x-fail Kihika

School and learning in Nyeri (Gen. R., Muhoya)


211-12 [Oedipal] > colonial

Slave’s treachery cf. Mother and Kenyans


213 demanding rights (WW2 and Independence]

Dr. Lynd’s dog > $


214 exclusive white settlement grew


214 Gikonyo and Karanja fall


215 ceremony, foundation for new future


216 Christian hymns + traditional and Uhuru songs [syncretism]

Something done about the Indians?



217 Kihika & Mugo

Disturbing sense of an inevitable doom

Rev. Morris Kingori, Kikuyu Greek Orthodox Church, xmissionary

[call / response?]


218 Abraham > Kikuyu [syncretism]


Recreated history . . . through words and voices


220 ghosts of colonial past still haunting Kenya

Rev. Jackson: We are still here


221 not on our side, against us

Even now this war is not ended

Uhuru = Land and Freedom

Asking for change he had spoken their word


222 drama more exciting

Let him come forward as a sign of repentance

Mugo . . . other drama forgotten


223 Now, you know

As if the meeting ended with Mugo’s confession

Elders complete sacrifice before storm





224 mother Wairimu


225 story x idleness

Jembe, panga, shamba


226 x-go against the people, the voice of his own people


227 back to Githima


229 day’s events . . . coherence

Scared of black power

He has saved you


230 hooded man [Trayvon!]


231 merges with Mugo





233 proverb: even an enemy is often rescued from danger


233-4 x-cast stone, open hearts naked for world to look at


234 re-enacted same movement


238 General R

No one will ever escape from his own actions




239 [disordered household]


240 things started changing in our village the day she started seeing visions of the dead


241 something went wrong

Cf. days of Harry

We slaughtered the rams

Not what I had waited for


242 nothing to save

I did not want anything to happen

I ask myself, Why did he do all that in the trench and in detention?




244 Kerinyaga


245 desire to carve stool

What difference was there between him and Karanja or Mugo or those who had openly betrayed people and worked with the whiteman to save themselves? [moral distribution]