How do the female characters symbolize feminism in A Grain of Wheat?

The female characters symbolize feminism in A Grain of Wheat by showing the intimate link between national liberation and the liberation of women. In fighting for Kenya's liberation, characters like Mumbi and Wambui are showing it is possible for women to define themselves and shape their own destinies.

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In A Grain of Wheat, Ngugi wa Thiong'o pays fulsome tribute to those women who played such a crucial role in the struggle for Kenyan independence. He shows us how Kenyan women made enormous sacrifices in supporting the national liberation movement, often at considerable personal cost.

Wambui, a village elder, has been involved in the struggle for independence throughout the whole of her long life. As part of her work for the colonial resistance movement, the Mau Mau, she takes extraordinary risks, smuggling messages and guns to people the British colonial authorities regard as dangerous terrorists.

Wambui's revolutionary acts are also feminist acts in that they demonstrate how much the struggle for independence relies upon women, and how that struggle simply won't succeed without them. In fighting for Kenyan independence, women like Wambui are also fighting for female liberation; to show men in this traditionally macho society what they are capable of if given the freedom to take control of their own lives and destinies.

Mumbi is another female character in the book who displays feminist tendencies. In her case, as well as joining in the struggle for independence, she also exerts control over her own body by sleeping with Karanja while her husband Gikonyo is in prison. This is not a particularly admirable act, by any means, but it does at least show that Mumbi is prepared to take control over her own life, which is something that not many women in this part of the world ever get a chance to do.

In the case of Mumbi, we can observe how the revolutionary political situation in Kenya has also inadvertently revolutionized traditional society, allowing women to become more aware of themselves and of the important struggle for women's rights that lies ahead once independence has finally been achieved.

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