AD's English Literature : A Man of the People (1966): Position of Women in Post Colonial Nigerian Society

A Man of the People (1966): Position of Women in Post Colonial Nigerian Society

It is interesting to study how the women in A Man of the People ( Chinua Achebe) play an important role in Odili and Nanga’s strategies. Here we find two contrasting groups of people from a political and social aspect based in West Africa.  The groups are the old and the new generations of politics and two characters represent them.  Odili, the narrator, represents the new intellectual generation, while Chief Nanga, Odili’s former teacher, represents the old style of bush politicians.  The conflict between the old and new ways is portrayed through the two characters as they not only disagree and quarrel over political views but also women.  Achebe captures the inside reality of the lives of the contrasting characters as he demonstrates energy and brightness as well as violence and corruption. 

Odili learned many things from Mr. Nanga and was happy when he heard he was first elected.  But as Nanga grew more powerful within his office and country Odili began to grow smarter and he became more aware of the corrupt reality.  It was not finally realized though, until he actually had the chance to live with Chief Nanga and witness how Nanga abused his money and power by over-spending his money and having his way with the women he desired.  He sees the greedy and gluttonous Chief Nanga and he sees the lust and passion driving Nanga to have his way and to have women bow down to him. This evil side of Nanga that no one ever sees due to his power and way of hiding the truth and having his way with women is seen by Odili as a powerful enough reason to run against him in the upcoming election.  Nanga finds a way to take the women that Odili has feelings for away from him, and thus Odili seeks revenge as he is determined to defeat Chief Nanga in the upcoming election and win back the woman he desires. 

  Odili is upset and jealous of Chief Nanga as he wins out both the girls Odili attempts to have relations with.  Nanga wants to prove that no matter how old he is, his political power, money, and charming good looks will always win over the younger less powerful intellectual.  When asked if he (Odili) was serious about Elsie from Nanga, Odili played it off like he did not care and told Chief Nanga that he was not serious about her.  It was not until one night that Odili had the intentions of sneaking up to Elsie's room when he realized Nanga has beaten him to the spot and the competition begins.  Nanga justifies his actions by explaining to Odili that the reason he (Nanga) asked him about whether or not he was serious about Elsie was to find out whether she was spoken for. Elsie screams Odili’s name, but Odili does not care enough about her to react.  If he did care he would have responded.  Instead he packs his bags and leaves, and is only mad at Nanga for competition's sake.

Despite of these political estrangements and rifts, we find in the storyline the characters like Mrs. Nanga and Edna, Mr. Nanga’s wife and would be wife respectively. While Mrs. Nanga is traditional Igbo wife coming in easy terms to accept Mr. Nanga and his extravagant sexual desires and wives, Edna, however, is modern in considering her choices after a lot of difficulties.

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