Things Fall Apart | Study Guide

Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart | Part 2, Chapter 15 | Summary

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Summary

Obierika pays a visit in the second year of Okonkwo's exile, and the two men go to speak with Uchendu. Uchendu notes that men in his day "had friends in distant clans," while the current generation stays home and is afraid of its next-door neighbor.

Obierika tells them the Abame clan has been wiped out. A white man had appeared in the village. When the Oracle was consulted, he declared that the man "would break their clan and spread destruction among them." The Oracle warned that other white men would follow. He called them locusts. Clan members then killed the man.

Uchendu asks what the stranger said. At first, he is told that the man said nothing. Actually, the stranger had spoken, but he was not understood.

Later, Obierika tells them, some "ordinary men like us" led three white men to the clan. The men saw the stranger's bicycle tied to a tree. They left, returned with reinforcements, and, surrounding the market in Abame, shot everyone there.

Uchendu says, "Never kill a man who says nothing. Those men of Abame were fools." Okonkwo agrees. He says they should have armed themselves and been ready for danger.

The chapter closes with an example of Okonkwo allowing his emotions to show, although in a subtle fashion. Obierika and Okonkwo have a genuine friendship. Obierika handles Okonkwo's affairs and insists there is no need for his friend to thank him.

Analysis

The white man has arrived in Abame, and the Oracle says that more white men are on their way. Language is a barrier, as the villagers cannot understand the man, nor does he understand them.

Using a metaphor, the Oracle calls the white men locusts. Earlier, in Chapter 7, the arrival of actual locusts brought joy to the people; the insects were a dietary treat. Their appearance also foreshadowed the event that is now happening, the arrival of the first missionaries.

The locusts represent the paradox of colonialism: the advancement they bring through education and medicine comes at the cost of the oppression of indigenous people and the eradication of their culture. Achebe's use of locusts to symbolize destruction can be compared to the locusts' appearance as one of 10 plagues against Egypt in the Bible (Exodus 10:1–20).

Okonkwo suggests that the men of Abame should have armed themselves "even when they went to market." Typically, his initial reaction is to fight. This goes against the clan's established practice of turning to violence only as a last resort.

Readers see that, although there are many appearances of male bonding in the novel, Obierika is the one man with whom Okonkwo is truly connected.

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