A handsome, introverted, mysterious man who lives in the village and spent time in the detainment camps. Mugo is viewed by everyone as a hero because he worked with Kihika and never cracked under pressure. He secretly was the one who betrayed Kihika, which he eventually admits after hearing Mumbi confide in him regarding her own life story; he announces he was guilty at the Uhuru celebration, which he originally thought he might attend in a capacity as savior of the people. He is nervous, full of contradictory thoughts, and frustrated that people think he is courageous and humble.
A wise elder of the village who was active in freedom movement in prior decades and is now preparing for the Uhuru celebrations. He encourages Mugo to speak, and later serves on his trial after he confesses.
The old woman
A strange and disturbed woman in the village whose deaf and dumb son is killed. She looks at Mugo in ways that make him uncomfortable. At the end of the novel, he is drawn to her hut; she thinks he is her son, and then she immediately dies.
A villager who boasts of being active in the Mau Mau and claims he was maimed in the Emergency. He likes to tell stories and create his own narrative.
The deaf and dumb son of the old woman. He is nevertheless strong and has many lovers. He is killed by policemen who assume he is a Mau Mau terrorist.
Mugo's cruel and drunken aunt with whom he lives; he wishes he could kill her, but she dies of ill health.
A woman in the village who looks older than she is. She carried secrets from villages during the Emergency and became famous for staving off a police search of her person. After Uhuru, though, she seems demoralized.
A member of the Mau Mau and husband of Mumbi, he spends years in a detention camp dreaming of returning to her. He is bitter and disillusioned when he comes back and finds she has a child by another man. He throws himself into work and becomes wealthy; he is a model for people in the village. He is injured in the Uhuru celebration, but this allows him to start working on his attitude toward Mumbi.
The beautiful sister of Kihika who dreams of sacrifice and noble deeds, she falls in love with Gikonyo when she is young and yearns for him while he is away in the detention camp. When she hears from Karanja (who also loved her but whom she detests) that Gikonyo is coming home, she yields to Karanja's advances and bears a child by him. She confides her story to Mugo, and he in turn tells her he betrayed Kihika. She does not want him or anyone else to suffer for her brother, though. At the end of the novel she is close to a reconciliation with Kihika.
The brother of Mumbi and a brave freedom fighter in the Mau Mau. He is responsible for killing DO Robson and taking over Mahee prison, becoming a hero to the people. He is betrayed by Mugo and is captured and hanged. His life and deeds are legendary, and part of Uhuru is intended to celebrate him.
An early leader of the Movement who is jailed, sparking a processional to free him.
A military man (he served in WWII) whose goals are to get Mugo to speak at Uhuru and to punish Kihika's betrayer. He is stern and quiet and does not boast or get involved in politics. When he was young he had a tyrannical father whom he wanted to kill, and was distressed when his mother stood up for his father even though he beat her. He arrests Mugo and takes him to trial after Mugo confesses.
A military man who serves with General R. As a young man he worked for Dr. Lynd but was bitter against her; along with two other men, he attacked her and her dog. When he sees her years later he refers to her a ghost.
An old friend of Kihika's who unsuccessfully tried to woo Mumbi when they were young. Karanja is prideful, spiteful, and happy to cooperate with the whites if it means he can lord over others. While others are fighting or interned, he becomes a homeguard and eventually a Chief. He also pursues Mumbi and gets her to sleep with him while Gikonyo is away; she bears his child but refuses to be in a relationship with him. After he is told to step down from being Chief, he works at Githima and tries to cultivate the good will of Thompson. He is suspected of having betrayed Kihika; even after Mugo confesses to being the true betrayer, Karanja remains unhappy and disillusioned.
The European who has the idea to open a Forest Research Station in Githima; he is killed by a train and does not live to see this happen.
Dr. Henry Van Dyke
A corpulent, drunken meteorologist at the Station who has an affair with Margery Thompson; he dies after a train strikes his car.
A Kenyan who works at Githima and often annoys Karanja.
The DO at Githima, Thompson was once destined for an illustrious career, but the hunger strike and violence led by Mugo at Rira ruined his fortunes. He now oversees Githima and lives with his wife Margery, although their relationship is fraught. He is preparing to return to Britain because he does not want to remain when in Githima blacks are in power.
The librarian at Githima and girlfriend of Roger Mason. She orders Karanja around, which Karanja resents.
The beautiful and buxom wife of Thompson, she carries on an affair with Van Dyke until he dies. She is restless with Thompson but later feels closer to him once they are leaving.
A plant pathologist who works at Githima, she is unmarried and likes living in Kenya even though the time of white rule is passing. She is naive and self-centered, thinking she is good to Africans although she is actually condescending towards them. Years ago, Koina, her houseboy, and his compatriots assaulted her; they also killed her beloved dog, which looms large in her psyche. Thompson finds her annoying.
Although he does not appear in the text, Kenyatta is a force behind the actions of the text. He is a leader of the Kenyan people and thrown into jail by the British. He does not approve of the Mau Mau, and is inspiring to the people.
The representative of the village who rarely visits. He cares more about his own power and position than his constituents. He is untruthful about buying Burton's land when Gikonyo comes to see him about a loan.
Gikonyo's father, a hardworking squatter and lothario who got rid of Wangari and Gikonyo, their son.
Gikonyo's mother. She usually takes Mumbi's side in the martial conflict and criticizes her son.
Mumbi, Kihika, and Kariuki's father; he is an elder, a warrior, and a farmer. He is well-respected and favors his son Kihika.
Mumbi, Kihika, and Kariuki's mother. She is critical of her daughter for leaving Gikonyo.
The brother of Kihika and Mumbi, and the son of Mbugua and Wanjiku. He is not a member of the Mau Mau, and Karanja helps secure him a position in secondary school.
The Reverend Jackson Kigondu
A well-respected Christian who encourages Kihika to go to school. He was active in the revivalist movement and considered himself a Christian soldier. He was killed by the Mau Mau.
A teacher at Kihika's school who does not like being corrected by the young. Plans to beat Kihika publicly.
A friend of Mumbi and Njeri's who is initially involved with Kihika but becomes depressed when he leaves for the forest. Later, Mugo saves him from a beating she received while working on the trench. She is killed, and was possibly pregnant.
A friend of Mumbi and Wambuku who follows Kihika to the forest because of her love for him; she dies in battle.
A man who is in Gikonyo's concentration camp. He seems unbreakable, maintaining his joy, positivity, and strength even when he is beaten and tortured. He inspires the other men, but Gikonyo becomes angry at him because Gikonyo thinks it is easy to be strong when one does not have a woman like Mumbi. Gatu is murdered at the camp.
Mrs. Dickinson's boyfriend.
The party Secretary who opens the Uhuru ceremony.
Reverend Morris Kingori
Leads the prayer at the Uhuru celebration.
A Grain of Wheat Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for A Grain of Wheat is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.