One of the most interesting aspects of Petals of Blood is Ngugi’s striking use of Marxist social commentary, particularly with regards to his portrayal of Ilmorog and its inhabitants. Employing Munira as a point of access, the reader gains the perspective of an outsider (and educator) attempting to live among and improve circumstances for the local population. While he quickly becomes disillusioned by his ineffectiveness, he manages to set up a (albeit barely functioning) school and finds contentment within his newfound surroundings as a deviation from past travails and disappointments. Nevertheless, sprinkled throughout this basic story arc, are overt observations on the city’s deplorable state and its ramifications for Kenya as a whole. Stating that, “he would watch the peasants in the fields going through the motions of working but really waiting for the rains,” Ngugi shows Ilmorog’s dependence on the weather and its sufferings in the wake of the current drought (20). Despite a newly drafted constitution, parliament and MPs supposedly at the people’s disposal, they lament the post-colonial state’s limitations. For example, Munira is surprised to find that almost none of the peasants even know the name of their MP, with those who have opinions about Nderi merely airing their frustrations over his lack of interest in lessening their environmental woes – promising “water which never came” (35). For this reason, much of the city’s youth has fled to larger metropolitan areas in search of a better life as Ilmorog continues to waste away. In light of this, Munira sees Ilmorog as a small-scale representation of the inequalities throughout Kenya saying: “Our erstwhile masters had left us a very unevenly cultivated land: the centre was swollen with fruit and water sucked from the rest” (49). As a result, he wonders if the ‘hyenas’ will ‘grow horns,’ the peasantry so to speak, and rise up to shake the foundation of the newly independent government (48).
In spite of the officially sponsored KCO’s aspirations “to bring unity between the rich and the poor and cultural harmony to all regions,” Ngugi makes it clear that the national bourgeoisie are systematically exploiting the peasants, and favoring certain regions over others. All of this demonstrates the lumpen proletariat’s disillusionment with the new national government, which is inattentive to their needs and continues processes of corruption rife within the previous colonial administration. Thus, while authors, such as Achebe, looked towards independence with hopeful eyes, Ngugi paints a picture in which much of that optimism has disapated — putting forth a poignant Marxist critique of the post-colonial nation state.