Minutes of Glory by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
In Minutes of Glory by Ngugi wa Thiong’o we have the theme of identity, insecurity, appearance, equality and independence. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Thiong’o may be exploring the theme of identity. Beatrice doesn’t really know who she is or more importantly who she would like to be. She doesn’t like working the bar as a bar girl and feels insecure when it comes to the other bar girls in each bar that she has worked. In. The reader aware that Beatrice’s insecurity is driven by the fact that she does not consider herself to be a pretty as the other girls who work in the bar and as such is somewhat resentful when a man does not choose to speak or sleep with her. In many ways it might also be possible that through her insecurity Beatrice is attempting to validate her life through the action of sleeping with complete strangers. It is also possible that Beatrice would prefer to live a different life but such is her lack of education the best position she can get is that of a bar girl.
It may also be a possible that Thiong’o is attacking the education system that is in place. With it becoming clear that it may not have only been Beatrice who has slipped through the net but some of the other bar girls might also have seen let down by their educators. Similarly there does not seem to be any employment in Beatrice’s village so like the other girls who work in the bar she has to move from town to town in order to find work. The fact some of the girls attempt to whiten their skin might also be symbolically significant as it suggests that those who do so are uncomfortable with their black skin (or identity) and know that the customers in the bar prefer women who are lighter skinned. Beatrice also stealing the money from the man in order to improve her physical appearance might also be important. There is no malice when Beatrice steals the money. She is just trying to be someone different. Something that would again play on the theme of identity. The fact that very few men chose Beatrice to have sex with her is also interesting as it may be case that Beatrice may feel unloved. Basing her feeling solely on the man’s reactions to her physical appearance.
The rivalry between Nyaguthlii and Beatrice is also interesting as it seems to be a case that Beatrice is jealous of Nyaguthlii due to appearance and her ability to earn more money that Beatrice. However Nyaguthii’s background is no better that Beatrice’s and when both girls talk to each other there is a sense that Beatrice has misunderstood Nyaguthlii. This may be important as it could explain as to why both girls become friends. In reality they have similar backgrounds and they are also doing the same thing when it comes to working in the bar. There is also no sense of equality with each woman in the bar being treated more as a product that as a human being. A woman can be treated badly by those in the bar and there will be no repercussions. Which may suggest that Thiong’o is placing a spotlight on society itself and the limited role that women play in society. All decisions are made by men and if anything women appear to be treated as second class citizens.
The end if the story is also interesting as Beatrice half-heartedly makes an attempt to break away from the life she is living. She not only steals the money but she treats herself to new clothes which she believes will improve her chances of being noticed in work. This actually works however nothing has really changed. Beatrice is in reality doing the same job but she is just dressed in different more attractive clothes. Something which may be important as Thiong’o may be highlighting the fickle nature of men. Where previously Beatrice was ignored in her old clothes by the men in the bar. She is now the centre of attention. However things get worse for Beatrice. The man with the truck arrives in the bar with the police and Beatrice is arrested. She has had her minutes of glory and now she is to go to prison for stealing. At no stage in the story does Beatrice’s life really improve. She has no independence and is reliant on the bar owner to provide her with work. There is also no other job that Beatrice feels as though she is qualified to do. Which may leave some readers to suggest that after Beatrice is released from the jail the vicious cycle she is caught up in will continue. The reader aware that Beatrice is just one of many girls who have the same story to tell. A story in whereby they are trapped by their circumstances.