Metaphor and Christianity in Petals of Blood

From close reading larger literary texts, it is possible to juxtapose metaphor and allegory with textual evidence, using that evidence as a springboard to further investigate possible meanings and interpretations. Religion has been used as a key theme in many of the novels to emerge from the colonial and post-colonial African canon. In particular, the novels of Ngugi wa Thiong’o have addressed Christianity and its oppression of traditional African religious values through the use of religion as both a literary device, a tool for moving the plot along, and a mode of existence for characters.

By looking at the metaphorical and allegorical allusions to Christianity in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Petals of Blood (1977), we can see the juxtaposition of traditional African religious values against the pervasiveness of Christian thought. As we study the progression of such themes through post-colonialism, it becomes clear that religion has frequently been used as a device to highlight the fragility of the African cultural ecosystem. In Petals of Blood, religion is engaged in conversation with the arrival of White men to the village of Ilmorog. It sheds light on Ngugi’s implication that religion, in the form of the church and Christian theology, is an allegory of colonial violence and oppression. If we present Christianity as a virus, or at the very least an invader, we see that religion is divisive and destructive. This destructive religion in Petals of Blood is both physical and metaphorical, and I will examine how this ‘deconstructivity’ is representative of colonialism and its effects.

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