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Politics and art in the novels of Ngugi wa Thiong'o and George Lamming : a comparative approach

Ahmed, Kabir (1989) Politics and art in the novels of Ngugi wa Thiong'o and George Lamming : a comparative approach. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94157) (KAR id:94157)


This thesis compares the novels of Ngugi wa Thiong'o and a selection of George Lamming's , using regional criticism, which situates literature within its cultural and socio-political contexts. Since this approach is based on the premise that literary works are not created in a socio-political vacuum, it emphasizes that a knowledge of the context of a literary work is an indispensable critical tool. It enables the critic to assess a writer's stand on sociopolitical issues, which he will manipulate according to his purpose in fiction. Also if a writer distorts history, a critic with contextual information at hand will be in a position to determine whether this is based on ignorance or whether a political or religious explanation can be found for the distortion.

This approach aided the comparison and the discovery that Ngugi, in his early fiction, was at a neophyte stage of his vocation as a political writer and as an artist, in contrast with Lamming who had already formed his political ideas and was already experimenting with indigenous forms in his early fiction. Section One of the thesis (consisting of Chapters One and Two) attempted to prove this point by analysing The River Between alongside In the Castle of My Skin, and pairing Weep Not, Child with Of Age and Innocence.

Chapter three is a hinge between the early and the latter part of the thesis. It attempts to account for the similarities between the two novelists, which can be traced to the common pasts of both Kenya and Barbados as British fiefdoms. Their later divergence, illustrated by Lamming's continuity and intensification, can be accounted for, at one level, by Lamming's fixed political ideas when he started writing. At the second level - that of art - it can be traced to Lamming's conformity with the experimental trend of writing in the West Indies, which reflects the essence of the environment by utilizing the folk culture and indigenous narrative forms. The chapter sees Ngugi as an apprentice writer who was developing and who at a formative stage of his career read and found instructive Lamming's In the Castle of My Skin.

The first part of Chapter Four establishes Lamming's literary influence on Ngugi. It uses A Grain of Wheat, Ngugi's first major political novel, to prove that the Kenyan writer had been influenced by Lamming both at the formal and thematic levels. The second part of the chapter compares Ngugi's novel with Lamming's Season of Adventure to reveal that although both writers express disenchantment with political independence, Ngugi (who has developed) is now a conscious artist, as adept as Lamming has been with form.

The two final chapters reveal that while both writers have continued to address political issues and experiment with form, they also diverge linguistically and ideologically. Chapter Five uses In the Castle of My Skin and Devil on the Cross, a Gikuyu novel, to establish the linguistic diversion. Chapter Six compares Natives of My Person with Petals of Blood to show that while Lamming has remained a psychological novelist, Ngugi has developed into a Marxist radical.

In conclusion, we observe that both writers excel in their different ways, with Ngugi who now sees exploitation from a socioeconomic angle making his point in Petals of Blood as compelling as Lamming's whose psychological view of the West Indian predicament forcefully comes across in Natives of My Person.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Innes, C. L.
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94157
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Kenyan literature, Barbadian literature, comparative literature
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN851 Comparative Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2023 14:27 UTC
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2023 14:30 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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