The Voter by Chinua Achebe

The Voter - Chinua AchebeIn The Voter by Chinua Achebe we have the theme of corruption, loyalty, guilt, power, greed and tradition. Taken from his Girls at War and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Achebe may be exploring the theme of corruption. As a politician Marcus has made sure that his life has improved in comparison to those who live in Umuofia. He has built himself a new home with running water yet his constituents don’t have the same access to water as Marcus does. Though it is not explicitly stated that Marcus has inappropriately obtained his property the fact that he has ready and easy access to large amounts of money suggests that he may be corrupt. Also Roof on Marcus’ instructions bribes some of the local elders in order to ensure that they will vote for Marcus. At no stage in the story does Roof advise the elders as to why they should vote for Marcus or what benefit electing Marcus will be to the community. The reality being that Roof is bribing the elders in order to ensure that they vote for Marcus regardless of what Marcus might and might not do for those in the village. Roof’s main concern is not the elders or those in the community but Marcus himself. There also seems to be no thought given by the elders as to what the consequences of their actions (voting for Marcus) might be. Just as Marcus and Roof are corrupt so too are the local elders who are more concerned with receiving payment for their vote than they are on improving life in the village.

It may also be a case that Achebe is exploring the theme of loyalty. Not only do the elders accept a bribe in return for their loyalty to Marcus but Roof too accepts a bribe to ensure that he will vote for Maduka. Even though he spends the entirety of the story attempting to ensure that Marcus will get re-elected Roof at the end shows Marcus no loyalty. Having being swayed by the five pounds he has received in order to vote for Maduka. Which in many ways is ironic as there is a sense that even though Roof is working for Marcus he cannot be trusted by Marcus. It is also possible that Achebe is placing a spotlight on the way that elections were held in Nigeria at the time the story was written. With the possibility that corruption was commonplace. By bribing the elders of a village a politician was able to ensure that they got elected. Where many would expect an individual to be allowed to independently decide on who they should vote for this is not the case in the story. With constituents being instructed by the elders on which way to vote.

It is also difficult to say for certain as to why Roof begins to feel guilty about the prospect of voting for Maduka. However it is possible that Roof feels guilty because he is loyal to Marcus and he knows that should Maduka become elected his services will no longer be needed by Marcus. The position he holds in the village will be lost and as such he will no longer have the authority that he feels he has over others. Any power that Roof does have will be gone. He will no longer be able to benefit personally as he has been able to do while Marcus has been elected. Just as Marcus may lose any comforts he has obtained from his corruption so too will Roof. There will be no need for the elders to listen to Roof should Marcus lose the election as there will no longer be any available funds to bribe the elders with. The introduction of the iyi may also be important as by introducing it into the story Achebe appears to be exploring the theme of tradition. Roof is very much afraid of the iyi and his actions at the polling station may be triggered by his fear of the iyi and what may happen him should he not fulfill his promise to vote for Maduka.

The end of the story is also interesting if not ironic. By ripping his ballot paper in two and placing half of the paper in each ballot box Roof feels that he has honoured his commitment to vote for Maduka. However if anything Roof has ended up spoiling his vote with neither Marcus nor Maduka getting his vote. Despite having been bribed by one of Maduka’s men and having a sense of loyalty to Marcus Roof hasn’t managed to vote for either man. Something that appears to be lost on Roof with Achebe describing Roof as walking out of the polling station ‘jauntily.’ It might also be a case that Achebe is suggesting that an individual should be allowed to freely cast their vote without the influence of others (Elders, Roof, Marcus and Maduka). Something that has not been the case throughout the story with Roof acting as an agent for corruption in order for Marcus to continue living the lifestyle he has become accustomed to. Yet at the same time he provides no benefit to his constituents. Democracy has not been allowed to play its role due to the corruption that exists in Umuofia. The reader is also aware that when the next election arrives that too will be corrupt thanks to the actions of both Marcus and Maduka. Maduka might not win the election on this occasion but he is preparing himself for the next election. Paying for votes with money and having no concern, like Marcus, for the constituents in Umuofia.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Voter by Chinua Achebe." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 9 Nov. 2016. Web.

31 comments

  • Nice story from Prof Chinua Achebe. I would like to get involved more on your platform to share views with you guys!

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Thokozani. It is a good story. Should you wish to get more involved you could check out some of the other stories on the blog and leave a comment.

  • That’s the most interesting short story I have ever read. Chinua Achebe also portrays through this story an individual torn between two forces.

  • I read the whole story but can I ask “how did the village elders take advantage to the cash enticements?”

    For school purpose.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Ezenwa. One of the elders. Is looking for more than two shillings to vote for Marcus Ibe (8th paragraph. Look at paragraph 7 as well).

  • It is good summary, it helps me to increase my knowledge, thank you.

  • What qualities did roof have which different from marcus?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m not sure either man is different. Roof is as corrupt as Marcus. However near the end of the story Roof does develop a conscience. Something that is noticeable by his ripping of the ballot paper.

    • It is fantastic explanation about the voter. Which is the symbol of pop whether head or car?

  • I am still confused who did roof vote for in the end?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Roof spoiled his vote by voting for both candidates and tearing his ballot card in two. In reality roof tried to vote twice.

  • Well explained. 1994 when I was doing Matric it was difficult to get the theme. This is what happening in RSA today ‘s elections. Beware small parties…

  • Can you please help me with these questions? (Sorry if my English is bad)

    1. What national event serves as the background of the story?
    2. Who are the two candidates?
    3. How did the villagers regard the reelectionist? Why?
    4. What does Rufus refer to when he warns the reelectionist of the radical change that had come to the minds of the electorate?
    5. How did the villagers regard the reelectionist? Why?
    6. As part of the campaign, what enticements did the reelectionist party offer?
    7. How did the village elders take advantage of the cash enticement?
    8. In what way was the enticement of the opposite party similar? Different?
    9. How did the enticement of the opposite party effect Rufus?

    This is my son’s homework, and I think that he could not do it, so I ask for your help.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Working from memory.

      1. General Election.
      2. Roof (or Rufus) and Marcus.
      3.I’m not sure but I think they may have liked him because he paid for votes (you might like to double check).
      4. People’s thinking may have changed ( an expectation that a doctor cures the sick may no longer be true).
      5. Same as 3.
      6. Bribes or money for votes.
      7. Sorry I’m not sure.
      8. Rufus tried to bribe the elders too. But the POP campaign team put five pounds on the floor for the elders.
      9. He wasn’t concerned if people voted for him. He wasn’t paying the elders more than two shillings each.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Change for Q2. Answer is Marcus and a member of the POP party.

  • How did the enticement of the opposite party affect Rufus? Do you think the other voters would have been affected in the same way?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Rufus was tempted and I do believe others would have been tempted too. Five pounds is a lot of money to Rufus.

  • How did the village elders take advantage of the cash enticement

  • Good analysis of the voter. The story throws light on the extent in which corruption has eaten deeply into our political system.

  • 1.why was the leader of the pop campaign team visited roof of the last night of the campaign?

    2. Did Roof comply in the aggrement made by the POP campaign leader? explain.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. I would need to read the story again to answer your question.

      2. No Roof ripped his ballot paper in two and tried to vote for both parties.

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