Munira and Karega are the two main male characters in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Petals of Blood. The men have several key similarities, especially in connection with their shared profession of teacher. Both continue to be idealistic, motivated in part by their patriotic desire to help young people forge a new path for independent Kenya. Both men become involved in the legal consequences of burning the brothel, which led to several deaths. The equally significant differences between them relate in part to their representation of different generations in relationship to colonialism and independence. Their nationalistic and political points of view are also connected to their social status and family background.
Munira is older than Karega and has been a teacher for many years. In his capacity as the school’s headmaster, he is also the supervisor of Karega, who teaches at the same school. Munira turns out to be idealistic to a fault: he is intolerant of other people’s flaws and rationalizes his reckless actions based on his intended goals, not their actual consequences. Munira’s conviction about his ability to effect change stems in part from his background growing up in a wealthy, land-owning family.
The younger man, Karega is more involved in workers’ rights and takes the side of the laboring classes. He sees independence as a class-based, not merely an anti-colonial, struggle. Willing to take risks in supporting strikes, for example, he privileges solidarity with this struggle over his personal upward mobility, such as attending college. His pragmatic motivations sometimes place him at odds with the religious older man.