What is the significance of the District Commissioner's final lines?
After following Okonkwo's staunch perspective throughout the entirety of the tale, Chinua Achebe's classic debut novel Things Fall Apart provocatively ends by narrowing in on the white District Commissioner's perception of the final scene. Indeed, after Okonkwo hangs himself, the Commissioner thinks to himself:
"The story of this man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading. One could almost write a whole chapter on him. Perhaps not a whole chapter, but a reasonable paragraph, at any rate" (208-9).
To me, this is especially interesting for two reasons. First, it is obviously ironic, and a scathing commentary on how European settlers have patronizing images of Africa as a dark, primitive, and untamed continent. Achebe is able to communicate Okonkwo's tragic tale in the span of a novel, but this calloused District Commissioner believes that Okonkwo's life would not even be worth a chapter.
Next, Achebe's choice to let the District Commissioner have the final passage of the novel mirrors the shift that Umuofia experiences throughout the story. The novel begins firmly rooted in the Umuofian traditions that Okonkwo represents, but ultimately ends by exploring the pervasive white presence that displaces tribal Umuofians.
This shift in perspective is an unexpected and significant way to close one of the most important novels of the 20th Century.