The novel Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong'o is filled with conflicts on many levels as its main characters wrestle among each other and within themselves. Munira is a schoolteacher in the village of Ilmorog, and at first, the natives are highly suspicious of him. He eventually earns the trust of bar owner Abdulla and of Wanja, the granddaughter of an Ilmorog elder. Munira and Wanja begin having an affair, but Wanja breaks off their relationship when she discovers that Munira is married.
Karega is also a schoolteacher who comes to Ilmorog. He already knows Munira, having worked with him before. Both teachers get caught up in the struggles of the village when a hot, dry summer leads to a bad harvest and a great deal of suffering. The people of Ilmorog go to Nairobi to see if they can receive assistance from their Member of Parliament, but they find no help from him, for he has no interest at all in their difficulties. In fact, they are questioned and mistreated by the rich businessman Kimeria, who is an ally of the MP, and Kimeria eventually rapes Wanja.
When rain finally comes, the people rejoice. Wanja opens a brewery and begins seeing Karega, but this leads to a violent jealousy in Munira, and Karega is forced to leave the village. Wanja ends up opening a brothel and falling into prostitution as the villagers face the challenges of government development, mortgages, and proving land ownership.
Eventually Karega returns to Ilmorog, wanting to renew his relationship with Wanja, but they cannot see eye to eye. Wanja does not want Munira either, and eventually, she invites Karega, Munira, and Kimeria to the brothel. She will show them that she has chosen Abdulla as her partner. Munira, however, unable to cope with his out-of-control jealousy, burns down the brothel, killing the three men and injuring Wanja.