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The World of Ngugi's Novel
Ngugi wa Thiong'o sees himself not just as a writer but also as a revolutionary continuing the fight against colonialism and neocolonialism in his country. In his early three novels, The River Between, Weep Not, Child, and A grain of Wheat, he set out to develop a national literature for Kenyan people. Setting his novels' plots against historical events, Ngugi sought to create and establish historical legends for a nation. Petals of Blood is regarded as an important transitional work in Ngugi's career as socialist writer, in which he moves from the anti-colonialist critique in his early works to a condemnation of the neocolonist regimes of the African comprador bourgeoisie. In his later two novels, Devil on the Cross and Matigari, Ngugi uses his ethnic language Gikuyu instead of English. For Ngugi, the use of local language in literature is presented as part of the cultural renaissance which is necessary for the reaffirmation of African identity which is in turn important in the fight against imperialism, whether cultural or political. Building on the argument that literature does nor grow or develop in a vacuum but is instead shaped by the social, political and economic forces in a particular society, Ngugi shows that art in traditional African society was linked with the physical, social and religious needs of the community. In a class structured society, literature is used to champion the needs of the dominant class which controls the intellectual forces. Ngugi shows that in such a society, “literature is partisan.” This partisan nature of literature is emphasized over and over again in his novels.
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