A Man of the People: Commentary

Added by Melissa Culross

In his novel A Man of the People, Achebe casts a critical eye on African politics. The author's eyepiece is the books narrator Odili, a schoolteacher; the object of his scrutiny is Chief the Honorable M.A. Nanga, Member of Parliament, Odili's former teacher and a popular bush politician who has risen to the post of Minister of Culture in his west African homeland. At first, Odili is charmed by the politician; but eventually he recognizes the extent of Nanga's abuses and decides to oppose the minister in an election. Odili is beaten, both physically and politically, his appeal to the people heard but ignored. The novel demonstrates, according to critic Shatto Arthur Gakwandi, how "the society has been invaded by a wide range of values which have destroyed the traditional balance between the material and the spiritual spheres of life, which has lead inevitably to the hypocrisy of double standards." Odili is the victim of these double standards.

Despite his political victory, Nanga, along with the rest of the government, is ousted by a coup. The seriousness of the fictional situation portrayed in A Man of the People became real very soon after the novel was first published in 1966 when Nigeria itself was racked by a coup.> [from Contempoarary Authors]

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