A Man of the People

A Man of the People Study Guide

First published in 1966, A Man of the People offers a critical perspective on the nature of politics, power, and greed. In his novel, author Chinua Achebe assumes an "outside" perspective in order to illustrate the profound effects of governmental corruption. Though the story takes place in an anonymous African country, it is clear that Achebe was profoundly influenced by his own experiences with Nigerian politics. However, with this geographical anonymity, Achebe aimed to portray more generally the conditions and struggles of neocolonial Africa.

A Man of the People focuses on the power battle between the older Chief Nanga and his former student, Odili. Although Chief Nanga, the Minister of Culture, claims that he is "a man of the people," Odili soon discovers that his former teacher has purely selfish motivations. While the growing conflict between these two figures throws the entire country into chaos, Achebe also prompts the audience to consider how these power struggles profoundly affect the country's average citizens. Chief Nanga is consistently met with enthusiasm, encouragement, and laughter from the citizens who simultaneously criticize the government's inconsideration. In his inclusion of these repeated rally scenes, Achebe asserts his own belief that a corrupt government can only remain in power if its citizens remain complicit.

Following its release, A Man of the People was met with critical acclaim. It was published by Heinemann as a part of the "African Writers Series," an initiative by the publishing house in order to broadcast African literature to a wider, international audience. Additionally, Achebe received positive feedback from other Nigerian authors and literary critics. They praised his astuteness and timeliness, as many of the conflicts discussed in A Man of the People manifested in the 1966 Nigerian coup-d'état.