The Fat Man in History

by Peter Carey

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Student Question

What are three strategies Nancy Bowlby uses to manipulate the "revolutionary" fat men in "The Fat Man in History"?

Quick answer:

In "The Fat Man in History," three different manipulation strategies that Nancy Bowlby deploys include encouraging the men to think that she does not agree with the actions of the new regime, avoiding confrontations with them, and undertaking a study of numerous "Fantonis" without any of the fat men being aware of it.

Expert Answers

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Nancy Bowlby, also known as Florence Nightingale, comes to the home of the fat men to collect rent money.

Her first strategy to manipulate the men is to pretend that she doesn't like the new regime, despite the fact that she works for them and is therefore reliant on them for her income. She does this by suggesting facetiously that the men should eat a revolutionary or somebody of stature within the new regime.

Secondly, she goes out of her way to avoid negative confrontations face to face. When she needs to threaten Finch with eviction for nonpayment, she does so by dropping a letter on the floor for them to find after she leaves. She does not get involved in a verbal altercation with him. This is a manipulative strategy exercised in an attempt to have the men continue to like her and therefore have a reason to want to pay their rent.

The final strategy I would mention relates to the study that Bowlby is actually conducting, in which twenty-three successive "Fantonis" have in fact been produced. In the memo that is revealed in the final part of the story, Bowlby reveals that she believes her ongoing study into the group's composition is justified and worthy of being continued.

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