Why aren't the leaders of Umuofia suspicious when the District Commissioner invites them to the Courthouse in Things Fall Apart?

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karythcara's profile pic

Posted on

It may be that you are confusing the idea of suspicion with the concept of acquiescence. The leaders of Umuofia are intelligent, alert and perceptive. They know precisely what is going on around them. Their traditions, which they rely upon for both understanding and action, cause them to be contemplative before being explosively active. This is confirmed because after Okika gives his speech to stir the leaders to rebellious action, they all remain calm while only Okonkwo springs to action, following the admonitions in Okika's speech, and attacking the whites. He finds that the leaders do not support his action, which infers that they acquiesced and rejected Okika's speech.

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jameadows's profile pic

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In Chapter 23 of Things Fall Apart, the District Commissioner invites the leaders of Umuofia to the courthouse after the church has been destroyed in his absence. The text reads,"Three days later the District Commissioner sent his sweet-tongued messenger to the leaders of Umuofia asking them to meet him in his headquarters. That also was not strange. He often asked them to hold such palavers, as he called them" (page numbers vary by edition). Part of the reason the leaders are not suspicious is because the District Commissioner has summoned them several times for "palavers," or talks, before. In addition, the messenger the District Commissioner sends is "sweet-tongued," and he speaks to them kindly.

Also, the leaders of Umuofia are used to solving their disputes in traditional ways and do not understand the Western laws by which the District Commissioner operates. For example, earlier in the novel, when a girl in Umuofia is killed by a nearby village, the other village sends Ikemefuna, a boy, to live in Umuofia with Okonkwo. When the oracle tells Okonkwo to kill the boy, he does so, even though he is very fond of him. The ways of Umuofia are different than Western ways, and the village leaders at first do not understand the power that the District Commissioner has over them. He later jails them until the villagers pay a fine. The leaders of the village are at first lured into thinking the District Commissioner poses no threat to them because he does not use guns or appear violent in a way they recognize. It is only after they are jailed that they understand his power.

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