Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Compare and contrast Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown.

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write9,005 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

When the Christian missionaries first enter Umuofia, they are led by the tolerant, understanding Reverend Brown. Mr. Brown discourages the new converts from being over-zealous and provoking the clan for their traditional beliefs. Achebe writes that Mr. Brown is respected throughout Umuofia because he "trod softly on its faith." Mr. Brown also goes out of his way to learn about the Igbo culture and religion by having discussions with Akunna in his obi. Akunna explains the clan's religion to Mr. Brown, and he gains additional perspective on the native community. Mr. Brown then establishes a school, and many clan members have an opportunity to gain a Western-style education.

After Mr. Brown dies, Reverend James Smith replaces him. Despite the fact that he is also a Christian missionary with hopes of converting many natives, Smith openly condemns Mr. Brown's tolerant policy of compromise and accommodation. Unlike Mr. Brown, Reverend Smith has a narrow perspective and sees things as "black and white." Achebe writes, "And black was evil" (65). Reverend Smith is portrayed as an over-zealous, harsh leader who openly criticizes the clan for their "heathen" practices. Reverend Smith has a different view of Christianity than Mr. Brown, which is less tolerant and accepting of other cultures. As a result of Reverend Smith's intolerant, challenging nature, zealous converts thrive, and conflict ensues between the church and the villagers. Enoch eventually unmasks an egwugwu during a ceremony, and the clan responds by burning down the church.

Further Reading:
check Approved by eNotes Editorial
bbtrees eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write4,120 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

As the British government moved forward with its plans to incorporate Igbo territory into its West African colony, the religious aspect of colonization was a crucial element of the strategy. The Christian missionary efforts played key roles in paving the way for African acceptance of a foreign presence that was distinct from political or military representation.

Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith have much in common. They are both white, Christian, English ministers who have traveled to Africa for the purpose of converting people to a foreign religion. Both are convinced that their method of conversion is the most effective.

Brown, the first to arrive, tends to be passive and patient. He understands that it can take time to break the ice and diminish the local people's mistrust of strangers. Brown seems genuinely interested in the Igbo ways of life, and he reasons that knowledge of the old gods will provide helpful ideas about how to convince people to abandon them. Although he is certain that his is the true religion, rather than trampling on others' beliefs, he "trod softly" on Igbo faith.

Smith is not only Brown's replacement but also represents the second wave of British colonization efforts. He favors a more aggressive approach, anticipating a rapidly growing congregation. Smith not only has more government backing but also understands the necessity of separating rulership from religion. Smith emphasizes the negative side of traditional beliefs and practices; he tries to establish conversion as necessary and inevitable.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write2,050 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Reverend Brown leads the mission with a cool head, calmness, and patience. He does not try to foist his religion on the tribe but leads by living example.

When Brown becomes ill and must leave, he is replaced by the zealous Reverend Smith. He is the total opposite of Brown, loud, pushy and believes that he is "right" and the tribe is "wrong". He has no compunction about shoving his own religious views down their throats. Anyone bold enough to go against him is thought to be a devil-worshipper.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

fashionableb1 | Student

Mr. Brown was the first missionary in Umoufia, he respected the Umoufian culture and people. Mr. Brown on the other hand did not respect the customs and promoted conflict and unrest between the Umoufians.

cosmogirl | Student

However, (In another paragraph) there are also various similarities between the two missionaries. Although Mr. Brown is the more "simpathetic" one with more understanding traits than Smith, its crucial not to forget that Mr.Brown's purposes to remind the reader of his real intentions. Mr.Brown, as clever as he is, still seeks a control, like all the rest of his fellow British, over the lands and societies of Africa. The comforting ways of Mr.Brown will convince the Igbos to be a part of his world, better than Mr.Smiths' methods of force and violence. If Smith and Brown make the Igbos believe in their customs, which a big part of that is religion, then they can share (take) the igbos' resources. Brown may seem more kind, but he still devishly wants the same cruel thing as Smith. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Unlock This Answer Now