Echoing the real political breakdown, several violent coups, and an ethnic cleansing campaign again the Igbo people in 1960s Nigeria, describes the aftermath of a military coup in Kangan.
The novel focuses on the last days in the lives of the newly installed military dictator, Sam, and his two friends: Chris, who becomes a member of the cabinet, and Ikem, an outspoken journalist.
The purpose of oral literature is not only to entertain, but also to instruct and honor.
The strong oral tradition in Africa is a major influence for twentieth-century Nigerian writers such as Amos Tutuola Chinua Achebe and Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka.
Most important, neither Chris nor Ikem had given Sam their support in a postcoup plebescite held prior to the events of the novel and designed to elect him President for Life.
This lack of support triggers the mistrust in Sam’s mind and brings the events of the novel proper in its wake.
As in other societies, myths in African culture explain the wonders of nature, provide creation narratives, and relate the activities of divine beings.
Legends, on the other hand, generally describe the actions of people and often commemorate heroes.
This exposition of past events occurs in a skillfully orchestrated variety of modes—through first- as well as third-person narration, dialogue, and the inner monologue of memory and reminiscence.
By giving each of the four figures a share in narrating the situation from a personal vantage point, Achebe achieves what Ikem calls at one point “the very stuff of life,” a richly complex fictional reality filled with the ambiguities and contradictions inherent in everyday reality.