Student Question

How does the novel Petals of Blood reflect culture and tradition?

Quick answer:

Petals of Blood reflects culture and tradition in the way that it highlights and connects the customs and histories of the people who reside in the village of Ilmorog.

Expert Answers

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Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s novel Petals of Blood arguably reflects the Kenyan culture and tradition of resistance and protest. After a dry, unfruitful harvest causes hardship, Karega leads the Ilmorog villagers to their government representative to try to get some help. Karega’s actions link to the actions of other characters and their connections to past uprisings—specifically, the Mau Mau War. While Karega’s march to their MP was not meant to sow violence, it does reflect a tradition of Kenyan people standing up for themselves and confronting power. The Mau Mau battled British colonizers; Karega challenges corrupt rulers.

When rain finally falls on Ilmorog, the villagers celebrate in a way that reflects their tradition and culture. They partake in an elaborate ceremony to demonstrate their thanks and, in the words of Karega, to “say farewell to a season of drought.”

The descriptions of the ceremony’s preparations further reinforce the village's careful, painstaking tradition and culture. The narrator goes into detail about how Wanja grinds the millet seeds—a process that the narrator describes as a “kind of festival” in itself.

Finally, it’s possible to argue that Munira’s return to the village, and Karega’s presence in the village, reflect culture and tradition. In a sense, both are departing from a Westernized environment and trying to return to a more traditional way of life.

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