Things Fall Apart | Study Guide

Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart | Part 3, Chapter 21 | Summary

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Summary

Many in the clan appreciate some of the changes brought by the white men, particularly the trading store and the money that is flowing into Umuofia.

Mr. Brown, the white missionary, is a patient man who treads "softly on his faith." He becomes friendly with the clan's leaders, including a man named Akunna. The two discuss religion, and Brown becomes convinced that the way to convert the people is not to attack their religion. Instead, he courts interest by building a hospital and a school in Umuofia.

Brown asks that children become students at the school. At first, families send only their lazy children or slaves. Brown says future leaders of the land will be those who learn to read and write. If the clans do not have educated people, outsiders will lead them. In time, families are convinced and send their children to school.

Brown comes to Okonkwo to tell him about Nwoye's education, thinking that he will be happy. Instead, Okonkwo drives him away with threats. Okonkwo's return has proven to be unremarkable. Villagers are preoccupied with the changes brought by the white men, not the return of a once-powerful farmer. He mourns for the changes that have occurred in the clan, which has "so unaccountably become soft like women."

Analysis

Mr. Brown is a decent man who does not force his religion upon the clan. He interacts with the people, enabling him to figure out the best way to draw them toward Christianity. He appeals to their sense of independence when mentioning the need to read and write. However, Brown has an ulterior motive: "From the very beginning, religion and education went hand in hand."

The people of Umuofia now appreciate the trading store, send their children to the missionary school, and utilize the hospital. They have accepted the presence of the new religion. Even the great men of the clan talk with Brown. It seems just a matter of time until larger numbers of people convert.

As Okonkwo mourns for the clan, he is increasingly out of touch with the new reality. He displays his unwillingness to adapt when he chases Mr. Brown. Okonkwo believes he came home during the wrong year because his sons cannot enter into ozo society (one of the ranks in Igbo culture) for two more years. However, the importance of this society in the village is no longer clear. In contrast, Nwoye, the son he has cursed, has adapted to the new society and is prospering.

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