A Man of the People Themes


The power struggle between generations is a central theme of the novel. Odili is a naive character who has refused a government post in favor of a teaching job in the "bush," a rural area, in order to escape having to lick the boots of the politically connected. Ironically, he gets drawn in, starting with an elaborate reception hosted by Nanga, followed closely by an invitation to spend holidays with him at the Minister's mansion in the capital. His own father's relative poverty in recent years, because of his many wives, seems to foster Odili's susceptibility to Nanga's overtures. Knowing what he does about Nanga's harsh treatment of the Minister of Finance, he should have known there would be strings attached.

While staying at Nanga's place, Odili brings a girl, Elsie, and Nanga in a sense cuckolds him, stealing into her bed during the night. Odili does not care that much about Elsie, but he is incensed that he cannot retaliate for the insult because the Nanga is "bloated by the flatulence of ill-gotten wealth, living in a big mansion built with public money, riding in a Cadillac, and watched over by a one-eyed, hired thug." The episode is ironic because Odili has had a long locker room style conversation with Nanga about his conquests of women, revealing that he is not above treating women as so much as chattel, particularly when he wants to impress the politically ensconced. Another irony occurs if one sees in the episode a reversal of a typical Ian...

(The entire section is 560 words.)