The title A Grain of Wheat comes from the parable of the same name recorded in “The Gospel According to St. John.” The parable is told by Jesus to the disciples in the twelfth chapter of the gospel and says,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24, KJV)
The story references religion in conjunction with the allusion in the title to make a statement about the cost and reality of the Kenyan independence movement. In the parable, Christ tells the apostles that a small grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die to sprout any new wheat. Similarly, in the novel, there are two principal characters, Kihika and Mugo, who die to bring about the healing and prosperity that Kenya needs after the struggle for independence.
Though, like a grain of wheat, Kihika and Mugo are insignificant people, their deaths change the future of the country. Kihika is a resistance fighter who stands up in the fight for independence—his death is a unifying tool that brings people together. Mugo, who is the one that betrays Kihika, also gives himself up, sacrificing his life and allowing people closure on the terrible tragedies that played out during the movement for independence. Kihika sums up how sacrifice brings life by comparing the fight for Keyna to Christ’s death for redemption from sins (religion is woven throughout the novel):
I die for you, you die for me, we become a sacrifice for one another. So I can say that you, Karanja, are Christ. I am Christ. Everybody who takes the Oath of Unity to change things in Kenya is Christ (pg. 93).
Kihika’s point illustrates how, like Christ’s sacrifice brought about the Church and Christianity, their sacrifice will bring about unity and a new Kenya. They, the people, are the grains of wheat that will bring new life after their deaths for Kenya.