What do the following quotes from Things Fall Apart mean? "That was a source of great sorrow to the leaders of the clan, but many of them believed that the strange faith and the white man's god...

What do the following quotes from Things Fall Apart mean?

"That was a source of great sorrow to the leaders of the clan, but many of them believed that the strange faith and the white man's god would not last."

"All the gods you have named are not gods at all. They are gods of deceit who tell you to kill your fellows and destroy innocent children."

Expert Answers
andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first quote is an extract from chapter sixteen and relates to the arrival of the Christian missionaries. They had come to Umuofia (Okonkwo's village) and had built a church there. They had been able to convert a number of villagers and were sending evangelists to the surrounding towns and villages. It was this new development which was such a source of concern to the leaders.

The leaders were sad because they felt that those who adopted the Christian religion were betraying their own culture and their faith in favour of that of an outside force. The new religion was strange to them because firstly, they had never experienced or had any contact with something similar before—all they ever had was their own belief system and they were comfortable in the knowledge that it served its purpose. Secondly, the new faith was entirely different to their own, for it spoke of only one God, whilst they had many gods in theirs. The new religion required a building for worship whilst theirs did not, except for a shrine.

The leaders called it 'the white man's god' because the missionaries were white people who introduced the religion. The leaders believed that this new ideology would soon die out because their clans would reject its principles and its practice because it was so vastly different from what they were accustomed to.

Unfortunately, the leaders were wrong, since many of their followers took a liking to the tenets of the new religion and became believers. Okonkwo's son, Nwoye, for example, became a Christian. The new religion was less harsh and more forgiving and did not require the severe forms of punishment imposed by customary religious teaching. It was, therefore, easy to find converts. This acceptance is one of the major reasons why the Ibo became a fragmented tribe.

The second quote is the reply given by a white man, through an interpreter, to a question by a clansman from Okonkwo's mother's village Mbanta. The man had mentioned the names of several of their gods and wanted to know which god the white man's was.

"All the gods you have named are not gods at all. They are gods of deceit who tell you to kill your fellows and destroy innocent children."

What the white man meant was that the gods which the Ibo were worshipping were not, in his opinion, real. These supposed gods were misleading them by telling them to kill their fellow men and to destroy children who had not committed any crime or any sin. The purpose of this visit was to convert those who adhered to customary beliefs. The missionaries believed that the tribespeople were uneducated and that their religion was that of savages.

The statement made by the missionary was based on what the missionaries had learnt about Ibo custom since their arrival. Ibo religion imposed severe penalties on those who did not adhere to its tenets. Children, for example, were permanently banished from villages if faith decreed that they had been cursed by the gods. They then became outcasts.

In the end, the introduction of a new faith was a deliberate attempt by the missionaries and the colonialists to fragment the traditions that held tribal societies together. Once they had created dissension amongst the ranks, it was easy to dominate them and impose their will upon the people by assuming the roles of benevolent leaders who wished to do what was best for everyone. In the end, the gullible and naive were easily lured by the promises of a supposedly better life. This led to the eventual destruction of most of the fabric of traditional society.

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Things Fall Apart

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