The Individual and the Nation in Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o’s Early Writing

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Abstract

In its essence, postcolonial literature evolved as an opposition to colonial discourse and ideological representation of the colonized subject inherent in colonial narratives. Springing out of the need to reconceptualize and reconstitute their communities, postcolonial writers often addressed the pressing historical and political issues of that time in their writing. In its early stages, postcolonial literature was therefore often marked by a strong sense of nationalism, interweaving fictional stories with the public narrative of pre-independence ideology. The paper seeks to explore the border between the public and the private in the early novels of the Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. Just as his contemporaries in other colonized countries, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o tends to utilize literature as a powerful tool for raising national awareness. The pre-independence period, in which Ngũgĩ’s novels are set, is marked by a certain degree of romanticism and idealism, yet there is also an underlying sense of doom. Drawing on the cultural roots and mythology of his community, the writer steers his narrative in the direction of a larger, public discourse, suggesting that “the individual finds the fullest development of his personality when he is working in and for the community as a whole”. Therefore, the public/private dichotomy stands at the very centre of his writing, proving the rootedness of the individual in the public space.

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Ars Aeterna

Literary Studies and Humanity

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