Achebe's fourth novel contains a range of male and female characters who give a sense of the complex urban political life and the seemingly more anchored, but threatened life of the rural villages.
Odili, nicknamed "diligent" by his schoolmates, is the chief male character and the narrator. He is naive, sexist, snobbish, self-centered, and self-congratulatory, providing wonderful opportunities for demonstrating the author's humor and ironic wit. Still, he grows with the book into more of a man than even he perhaps knows.
At the outset, he puts his foot in his mouth on several occasions. He denigrates his father, although not totally without cause, just as he is about to fall into the clutches of Nanga. Just prior to the episode (described above) where Nanga seduces Odili's girlfriend Elsie, he remarks: "Chief Nanga was a born politician; he could get away with almost anything he said or did." Before he stands up to Nanga on the platform at the end of the novel, he says he aspires to "the heights of symbolic action, a shining, monumental gesture untainted by hopes of success or reward." It is the monumental gesture that results in the severe beating that lands him in the hospital, his heroism a bit tainted by our knowledge that he has tried to be the big hero.
With women, Odili is awkward and often chauvinistic, revealing his relative inexperience. Yet he is also capable of recognizing truly worthy women when the occasion arises....
(The entire section is 1431 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of A Man of the People Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!