Relationships with the Past in Petals of Blood

Petals of Blood has led me to consider how Munira and characters in general position themselves in relation to the past and future. I’ve mostly been drawn to Munira’s relationship with Ilmorog as well as his behavior in the present-day portion of the novel. Exodus and apocalypse narratives have also been of interest to me.

Munira seems to find comfort in an elevated position where he is grounded within a community or history without said foundation becoming personal, or rather, something he has to delve into or interrogate through things like cause/effect and his role in the system. In the case of Ilmorog, it appears Munira appreciates it as a body he is a part of and somewhat respected in, but often flinches whenever he notices the physical shape of the town and its citizens. I gather that this is at least partially because Ilmorog, when seen in conjunction with more industrialized cities, highlights the aftermath of colonial influence. I believe Munira’s relationship with the past can be connected to some of the ideas in Fanon’s chapter “Colonial War and Mental Disorders”. Most of the cases in this chapter involve various examples of individuals’ psychotic reactions to triggers, typically an event from the war, and their involvement or lack thereof in said past. Currently, I think that avoiding friction—allowing Ilmorog to be scenery and keeping his past largely undisturbed—are ways for Munira to avoid a disordered state.

I’m not particularly settled on what I consider “a disordered state” to be in Petals of Blood. The theme of returning to the past or being unable to move forward due to paying frequent attention to histories could be a possible candidate. Narratively speaking, a sign of Munira’s disorder could be the way the present-day questioning and murder mystery/crime drama is stalled by an extended official statement embedded with even deeper reaches into the past. In addition to Munira’s relationship with the past, there are other possible disordered states. If I consider Ilmorog as a reminder or marker of the past, what does staying there as opposed to visiting, leaving completely, or staying for a while before giving up mean? This being said, I’m not entirely sure that a disordered state is a wholly negative thing.

I think the apocalyptic nature of Petals of Blood and its nods to the Exodus narrative/promise are grounds on which one could begin to question communities and individuals’ relationships to the past and future. When engaging the future in either case, I imagine that people begin to view the present as something that will be overcome, corrected, or escaped. In other words, the present is viewed in the hindsight of an imagined better future. Furthermore, events and behavior may be ordered and given reason to present a narrative such as “suffered, then delivered” or “evil-punished, good-saved”. In my opinion, both require a moment of mental distance from the past, present, and future simultaneously and therefore serve a function similar to Munira’s distancing.


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One Response to Relationships with the Past in Petals of Blood

  1. Anne Gulick says:

    Eager to see what you make of what happens to Munira, and especially his embrace of a kind of populist Christianity at the end of the novel.


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