How does the character of Mumbi symbolize Africa's struggle for identity in A Grain of Wheat?

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In A Grain of Wheat, Mumbi is a pivotal character in the plot and metaphorical nature of the novel. Mumbi is described as strong and very beautiful. She is both a naturally beautiful, effeminate character—and one of great defiance. When her husband, Gikonyo, is sent to a prison camp for Kenyans, she is objectified and sexually abused by Karanja, who works for the British colonialists.

Through this relationship, there is a symbol of control and domination. Despite the fact that Mumbi is married to her Kenyan husband, she is essentially conquered by Karanja. The idea of the possession of Africa is the true symbol that Mumbi represents. Africa as an idea and a place—in and of itself—is rejected for what conquerors want Africa to be.

Though Mumbi represents Africa's beauty, strength, and the defiant power of the continent, she also represents the thing that every other power wants to conquer. Mumbi's identity becomes as tragic as it is beautiful—much like the history of Africa.

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