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A Man of the People Study Guide & Plot Summary

This Study Guide consists of approximately 60 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A Man of the People.
This section contains 765 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our A Man of the People Study Guide

A Man of the People Summary & Study Guide Description

A Man of the People Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Related Titles and a Free Quiz on A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe.

Plot Summary

A Man of the People is a novel about Nigeria's halting first steps to form a post-colonial nation, told by Odili Samalu, a teacher turned politician, who takes on his former teacher, a now-corrupt member of the cabinet.

Odili Samalu needs to tell the story of how he leaves the teaching profession in a small village school and enters partisan politics as the opponent of powerful man, once his revered teacher. Odili resents having to stand in a reception line for Chief Nanga, with whom he has grown disillusioned since he called for the head of the Minister of Finance and denounced Western-influenced intellectuals. At university, Odili had hoped for a successful career, which his father, a wealthy and hated retired politician, identifies with government office. Odili and the old polygamist are currently observing a truce in their stormy relationship.

Nanga recognizes Odili at the reception and offers to help him get a scholarship to London, agreeing it has no strings attached. Odili has a girlfriend in the capital, and accepts Nanga's hospitality to make a meeting easier. Nanga arranges for Odili to meet important people and attend social events, one of which results in a brief affair with the wife of an American consultant to the government. Secretly, Odili is infatuated with a proper-looking young girl he first sees on the dais at Nanga's reception and learns is destined soon to become Nanga's second wife for display on occasions where his old wife is too "bush." First-wife goes home for Christmas, and Nanga swiftly brings in a mistress. Odili is allowed to bring his girlfriend home, but is so insistent the relationship is not serious that Nanga seduces her. Odili storms out, hurling unforgivable insults at the important man.

Odili seeks refuge at the home of an old friend, Max, who is a practicing lawyer. He is present when Max's fiance, Eunice, and other friends gather to establish a new political party dedicated to reform. Seeking revenge on Nanga, Odili tries to talk his intended, Edna Odo, into leaving him; swiftly Odili becomes attracted to her and wants to win her for himself. The attraction is mutual, but Edna must obey her greedy father and marry the chief. When another government scandal seems to make running candidates in the upcoming elections feasible, Odili and Max both announce their candidacy for seats in Parliament. Odili runs in Nanga's district. Edna denounces Odili as a wife-stealer and ungrateful thief.

Naively, Odili thinks to set up his campaign headquarters in Nanga's home village, but is blocked from holding a rally and fired from his teaching position in the village school. He moves to his home village of Urua, where he is joined by Max, who addresses the crowds in the family compound. Nanga shows up and bribes Odili to drop out of the race and is angrily rebuffed. Max, similarly approached, has accepted the bribe with no intention of dropping out. The friends debate political honesty and expediency. It matters little, however, because Nanga's party controls the media and other key positions. No one learns the new party exists. Odili's father is assessed new taxes and briefly jailed. His village loses the water system scheduled to go in until they renounce Odili. Utterly frustrated, Odili writes a cruel and unfair letter to Edna.

Odili foolishly disguises himself and makes his way to the foot of Nanga's stage at a mass rally. He is found out, mocked, invited to debate, and then beaten unconscious. He awakens in the hospital, and wavers in and out for days, believing he has seen his parents and Edna. Criminal charges are dropped, but Odili is maneuvered off the ballot. He learns of Max's murder on Election Day only afterwards, and of how his fiance had avenged him. Odili contemplates how popular cynicism has made Nanga's victory and exploitation possible. Edna, however, has left the old man and stands at his bedside. The violence spawned during the election spreads until the Army steps in to restore peace. The army arrests Nanga and his colleagues and indicates they will be prosecuted. Edna's father agrees to talk about letting her marry Odili. Odili concludes Max is lucky, having suffered martyrdom because Eunice has loved him enough to murder his murderer, expecting no reward for the act. Everyone else is looking out only for himself. The title A Man of the People formally applies to Chief Nanga - doubtless at his instigation - but clearly belongs to Odili (or Odili and Max) for seeking to make Nigeria a better place rather than continuing its colonial rape.

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This section contains 765 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our A Man of the People Study Guide
A Man of the People from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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