Is Mugo a hero in A Grain of Wheat? Can we consider Mugo a hero for having the courage to confess his betrayal to Kihika and to the mau mau movement?

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Blaze Bergstrom eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Throughout A Grain of Wheat, questions of heroism are presented with the ambiguity of real-life situations. The effects of the colonized mind that make simple assessments impossible are well-illustrated in Mugo. Having grown up under foreign oppression, he longs for freedom for himself and for his people. But he has seen neither true freedom nor true heroes. Instead, he has been shown the privilege whites and a tiny set of black rulers enjoy, and he has seen his fellow men brutally repressed, and even killed, when they stand for resistance. Mugo is all too human. Although he can sometimes muster up courage for a single action, he would prefer to avoid trouble and to have others see him as a hero. He cannot sustain the conviction to be consistently heroic.

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copelmat eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Although for most of the novel we are lead to believe that Mugo is a hero, his actions at the end cause readers to question this idea.

Throughout the majority of the novel we see the honorable, noble acts of Mugo: his hunger strike in the British concentration camp, his defense of the pregnant woman being beaten to death. But, wee learn near the end of A Grain of Wheatthat it was, in fact, Mugo who betrayed Kihika and not Karanja. As it turns out this has been the dark secret that Mugo has been harboring for the entire duration of the novel. Mugo was able to save himself from the concentration camp by revealing Kihika as the murderer of District Officer Robson.

Ngugi leaves us to question the exact nature of Mugo's character. His admission at the end certainly helps us to see him in a positive light, but ultimately each reader must make up his or her own mind.

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