The Green Leaves

by Grace Ogot

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What is the significance of the title in Grace Ogot's "The Green Leaves"?

Quick answer:

The title of Grace Ogot's short story “The Green Leaves” is significant because the green leaves are a symbol of deceit and concealment in the story. They may appear fresh and alive, but they are actually dead. What they conceal is also not what it seems.

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In her short story “The Green Leaves,” Grace Ogot takes what seems to be a small detail from the story and makes it her title, thus putting it front and center before readers. Let's brainstorm about why she might have done this.

Green leaves appear in the story when the villagers kill (or think they have killed) one of the cattle thieves. At least the man is nearly dead, and they don't think he can survive very much longer. Because he is a thief, they cover him up with green leaves and leave him to die rather than stand around and watch him or take him back to the village. They will bury him the next morning.

But Nyagar gets the idea that the cattle thief might just have some money on him, and he goes back at night to search, thinking that the thief will certainly be dead by then. He is pleased to find a bag around the man's neck, but as he is taking it, he receives a blow to the eye that kills him. The thief is not dead at all, and he kills Nyagar and then covers Nyagar's body up with green leaves before he escapes. The next morning, the villagers are stunned to find Nyagar's body when they brush the leaves away.

The green leaves, then, become a symbol of concealment and deceit. This is actually quite fitting. The leaves are green and seem to be alive and fresh and even growing, but since they are removed from the tree, they are no longer living at all. Their freshness is a deception, and this symbolizes the deception of what they conceal, namely, the thief that is not dead and then Nyagar's body. Nothing is quite what it seems in this story, even the leaves.

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