The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Amusa Sango is as much a viewfinder as a character, one who provides opportunities for the author to reveal scenes of urban discord, political opportunism, and interracial tensions. His playboy nightlife reveals the plight of single girls attracted to the city, away from the values of the countryside. While some degree of empathy with Sango is maintained because of his essential self-honesty and the pathos of his decline, he is delineated crudely and somewhat inconsistently. Except for his behavior toward Aina, explained by his all-consuming ambition, he behaves well throughout the novel, offering help to those who need it when he can supply it. Yet he fails to develop through his experiences. Even when he reports on coal miners’ riots in eastern Nigeria and the political consequences for the nation’s movement toward independence, he remains personally detached from the nationalist spirit of the masses he observes. He is constantly aware of his own shortcomings but does nothing about them. Sango’s function in the novel is primarily that of a reporter: His personality is subordinate to the point of view from which he reports.

Vagueness inhibits the other characters as well. Motivation beyond basic needs is seldom seen, and to satisfy such needs many of the characters are involved in the criminal underworld of the city. Lajide, the wealthiest character in both wives (eight) and real estate, is seen to be totally unscrupulous: He drinks himself to...

(The entire section is 452 words.)

People of the City Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Amusa Sango

Amusa Sango (ah-MEW-sah SAHN-goh), the protagonist, who lives in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, where he is employed as a crime reporter on a tabloid newspaper. He exemplifies a new class that has developed in contemporary Africa, that of educated urban workers who relish the opportunities for money and pleasure that social change has brought and who are indifferent, even antagonistic, to the restrictive cultural traditions of their parents. Sango is young, lively, and opportunistic, intelligent but not intellectual. He enjoys his role as a man-about-town; he is handsome, easygoing, and self-confident. He finds enjoyment in the high life of the city. During the evenings, he is the leader of a dance band, which plays in the local nightclubs. This moonlighting gives him access to the many good-time girls who, like him, see Lagos as a city of exotic opportunity. He is not merely a superficial playboy. Although he enjoys passionate sex with several women, in each case he defends himself from the guilt of promiscuity by believing himself to be ardently in love. He takes his work as a journalist seriously as well. His news reports show a serious social awareness of the exploitation suffered by the underprivileged in this rapidly evolving economy that provides benefits not for workers but rather for shrewd, even crooked, manipulators. His convictions are strong enough to require that he challenge the system. He is finally fired because his trenchant columns criticizing corruption offend the elite friends of the newspaper proprietor. Forced into exile in Ghana, he swears that he will return to Nigeria to work toward reform. For all of his private sexual activities, he remains a social idealist. He lives by his own code of honor, one that, if flexible in ultimate moral terms, retains a redeeming measure of dedication and decency.


Aina (AY-nah), a pretty country girl. There is nothing remarkable about her. Like hundreds of others, she has been lured to the city by the exaggerated promises of thrills and profit and is eager to experience the fast, glamorous life no matter the consequences, which she is too innocent to imagine anyway. Her only prospects derive from her sex. She is naïve enough to think that the men who seduce her will marry her but soon realizes the disappointing truth. She finds no work and survives by petty theft until she is caught and sentenced to prison. Humiliated and embittered, she turns viciously on society. She creates public scenes and attempts blackmail. At the nadir of her fortunes, she suffers a painful miscarriage. She is a young woman destroyed by the cruelties and indifference of the city. At this point, however, she undergoes a complete (if somewhat improbable) character...

(The entire section is 1167 words.)