Man of the People – Discussion Topics – Motives


In the novels A Man of the People and Heart of Darkness, the characters are motivated by different underlying factors that ultimately control their behavior.  The motives for each character determine what methods each uses to achieve his goal.  Violence, discovery, power, curiosity, greed, money,lust, and revenge are some of the different variables controlling the behaviors of the characters in these two novels.

In Heart of Darkness, Marlow’s motive for travel and exploration is curiosity.  He simply loves every bit of discovering new places and seeing things for the first time.  Marlow wants to find new sights and sounds, and he wants to explore for the sake of exploring, not for the sake of colonizing and overtaking.  Unlike Marlow, the other main voice in the novel, Mr. Kurtz, explores to seek money and power.  Each man has the urge to travel and explore, but each man has a different motive driving him to behave in different ways.

In A Man of the People, Odili’s motives for running against Chief Nanga in the election is to seek revenge and to prove that he is closer to the common man than Nanga.  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.

This creates a motive for Odili to find his old buddy, called “cool” Max, and to start a new third political party in an attempt to undermine Chief Nanga.  However, as Odili becomes more involved in politics he begins to see the corruption within the whole political process.  His father is very much against him for attempting to run against the Honorable Chief Nanga, and this creates a controversy between the two men.  At one point when Odili has established himself as the voice of the new party, Nanga tries to bribe him to drop out of the election, and Odili refuses.  This episode takes place in front of Odili’s father and is a two vs. one-person debate.  The two being Nanga and Odili’s father team up against Odili in the argument about whether or not Odili should accept the money and drop out of the election.  Nanga tells Odili that his friend Max accepted money and Odili couldn’t believe it.  He later finds out that Max, using is wits, accepts the money to help fund Odili’s campaign.

Chief Nanga has motives to obtain as much power as possible and he uses violent and greedy methods to obtain this power.  He lives in a fabulous house, constructs big building to rent and profit from, and has hired thugs to kill or arrest the person he needs killed or arrested.  He arrests Odili’s father at one point, bribes Max and eventually has Max killed, wins out the two girls Odili is after, tries to bribe Odili, and at the end tries to exploit Odili in front of the mass of people gathered to listen to his (Nanga’s) campaign speech.  Nanga stuffs ballet boxes and does everything he can with the power he has to suppress Odili’s attempt to overtake his position.

Motives can play a crucial role in determining the methods a person uses to acquire the things he wants in life.  Many men have the same motive, to spread their beliefs and thus to have people listen to them and respect them.  The modes of spreading ones beliefs will determine the fate of the world.  If a man believes he is doing the correct thing based on his beliefs there is always going to be a controversy.  Politicians have to persuade the people that their beliefs will not only come true, but will benefit everyone.  If a politician has a powerful enough voice, most often, that man will persuade his listeners to believe in him.  Nanga makes the people believe that they are so much better off than they would have been under European control that they do not even question what Chief Nanga is doing with all the power and money he has.  Odili realizes that the country could be made so much better if the people just knew the facts, but in order for him to gain the faith of the people he must go up against the man known as “a man of the people.



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