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How characters generate life in a well-written book

Saturday July 14 2018

Cover of Henry Ole Kulet's novel Blossoms of the Savannah.

Cover of Henry Ole Kulet's novel Blossoms of the Savannah. 


Characters are central to any piece of writing. An author carefully creates characters that will sell his message to readers. An author will describe a character vividly; this helps in determining their age, size, demeanour and mannerisms.

Apart from the hints given by the author, character analysis can also be done by a character’s motivation, their actions, their thoughts, what they say, what others say about them and their relations with others. This goes beyond character traits to include the role of the character in a piece of writing.

InBlossoms of the Savannahby H.R. ole Kulet, the story revolves around ole Kaelo, his wife and their two daughters. Oloisudori, Olarinkoi, and Joseph Parmuat are important characters in this novel as they build the main characters.

Other characters that enhance themes, plot and style are Simiren, his wives, especially Yeiyoo Botorr, Ole Supeyo, Nabaru, Minik and the enkamuratani. This article will focus on Kaelo, Mama Milanoi, Taiyo and Resian.

Ole Kaelo is the husband of Mama Milanoi and father of Taiyo and Resian. He is an employee of Agribix Limited. When he is retrenched; the family is forced to move from Nakuru to Nasila. Ole Kaelo is short tempered. From the onset, he organises and directs with obvious shortness of temper the loading of two ten-ton lorries. He gesticulates violently as he reprimands loaders for being slow and inept.

Taiyo feels sympathy for the poor fellows, as she knows the sting of her father’s tongue (pg1). When they complete loading the lorries, Taiyo tells her sister that they better be found in the company of Yeiyo, otherwise their father will spoil their day with his sharp tongue. During the journey to Nasila, when one of the lorries breaks down, Ole Kaelo fusses around the vehicles, cursing and muttering expletives under his breath (pg. 10).


Ole Kaelo is loving. When he first sees her at a church service in Nasila, he is stunned. He was obsessed with her and is still obsessed, 22 years later (pg. 9). Mama Milanoi knows that he loves her genuinely and still pampers her, even after all those years of marriage (pg. 29). The morning after the home coming ceremony, Ole Kaelo glances at his sleeping wife and he is elated … Oh, did he not have a wife there!

Ole Kaelo is also hardworking and ambitious. He has worked his fingers to the bone preparing for the day when he will no longer be employed. His ambition is to strive for the stars always. At Agribix, he struggled from the rank of a clerk to the coveted position of commercial manager. His role in the novel is to highlight the theme of family relations and cultural alienation. He also portrays the role of men in a patriarchal society.

Mama Milanoi is the wife of Ole Kaelo and mother of Taiyo and Resian. She is submissive. Over the years, Ole Kaelo scolds and bullies her like a half-witted child. She also has a childlike dependence on him.

When Taiyo asks her if Joseph Parmuat can coach them, she categorically refuses, saying that it was his father’s territory. When she intimates that family comes first, Ole Kaelo asks her if she is implying that their culture comes second.

She beats a hasty retreat saying that culture was everything and it rules their lives. The subject of FGM puts her at a crossroads between her love for her daughters and her dutiful role as a faithful and obedient wife of Ole Kaelo.

Mama Milanoi is loving. She loves her husband and her daughters dearly. She loves her husband and feels that she has failed him miserably by not giving him the sons he desires. When her husband tells her to prepare the girls for their roles in the Nasilian culture, the pain is harrowing and the torment in her heart unbearable. She plans to prepare a soft landing for them against the inevitable eventuality.

Oloisudori’s interest in Resian leaves her inconsolable. She tosses, writhes and cries with pain like a woman in labour. Her anguished cry burns deep in her heart and in the pit of her stomach, like an inferno in the bowels of the earth. (pg113).

Mama Milanoi is optimistic. Once convinced that relocating to Nasila offers a new phase of life, she becomes enthusiastic. She sees how a brand new house and a well-stocked shop offer glamour and a chance to be associated with the great and powerful of the land. It is also a chance to share the good fortune enjoyed by those already settled there and to marry off her daughters. She depicts the theme of the place of women in society.

Taiyo is the firstborn daughter of Ole Kaelo and Mama Milanoi. She is the sister of Resian. She is dutiful. This is seen when they first move into their new house and Taiyo removes her cardigan and swings into action. She loosens the ropes that tie the cartons, empties the contents on the floor, and sorts them out. She even urges Resian, who is reading a book, to help in clearing the mess.

The morning after the homecoming ceremony, Taiyo busies herself with ferrying breakfast from the kitchen to the table while Resian reads a book. When she is given the task of cooking a meat stew, she takes great care in its preparation. She ensures that all ingredients are in proper proportions and she regulates the heat so that the meat fries gently. Any time she adds water; she throws a pinch of salt and tastes the gravy to ensure that the taste is just right.

Taiyo is loving. She has been fiercely devoted to her sister since nursery school, protecting her from bigger girls who wanted to bully her. She makes it her duty to mop her younger sister’s tears, sooth her anger and gently reassure her when she is badly shaken. Taiyo also falls in love with Joseph Parmuat instantly and it chagrins her greatly to be told of her clan’s relations.

After the homecoming ceremony, she weeps until she has no more tears in her eyes then she sobs dryly. She is angry with everybody in Nasila, and especially her Uncle Simiren, who she blames for ruining her relationship with Joseph Parmuat. The mere mention of his name excites her. When she is allowed to interact with him, she is elated. She later tells him that she was ready to offend the sensibilities of Nasila by loving him and could face the consequences.

Resian is the younger daughter to Kaelo and Mama Milanoi and sister to Taiyo. She is determined. She wants to join Egerton University to study veterinary science and become a veterinary doctor. She makes Taiyo promise that she will persuade their father to allow them to go back to Nakuru and join the university (pg. 4). When Taiyo takes long to persuade their father, she is angry and feels her sister has failed her. She decides that she will press her more.

Resian is assertive. She has an outburst in front of Yeiyo-Botorr, which makes her say she has Olkuenyi. She wonders why they have to go to lengths to please some busybodies who lounge, yawning and stretching, waiting for tasty food to land on the table. She refuses to be taught solely to please male counterparts (pg. 76).

Mama Milanoi thinks that Resian is a hard nut to crack (pg118). She has an independent mind and is not easy to handle. No amount of intimidation or threats could easily break her. She always says she knows her rights and would not allow anyone to trample on them.

When Oloisudori tells her "you are my wife and only death can part us," she tells him that he was stark mad to think she was his wife. She says it can only happen if they kill her and carry her dead body to his house (pg. 204). She decides to ask her father about joining the university, who informs her that she is to be married to Oloisudori.

She shouts and screams, accusing her father of hatred and betrayal. Her father slaps her but it does not deter her as she declares that she would rather die than be married to such a monster.

To sum, this is just a highlight of some of the characters, learners are encouraged to delve further.


The writer teaches at Alliance Girls. [email protected]