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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Why are the traditional leaders in Things Fall Apart skeptical of the new faith?

Quick answer:

The traditional leaders of the clan, such as the priests of Agbala and the men who hold titles, are skeptical of the new faith because they perceive it as a threat. Not only will it challenge their own power, but it will also undermine a whole way of life in which the old religious rituals and beliefs play such an important part.

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When white missionaries introduce Christianity into this part of Africa, many of the locals are against it immediately. They see it as alien, different, and other, an ominous portent of further intrusion into their way of life by the white man.

The traditional leaders of the clan, as well as the priests of Agbala—an oracle whom people come from miles around to consult—are particularly disturbed by the new faith. The clan leaders are charged with ensuring that the old traditions carry on as they have done for generations. They understand that Christianity represents an attack on those traditions, and so they show extreme hostility toward the new faith.

As for Agbala and his acolytes, they are, if anything, even more hostile to Christianity and all it represents. They perceive, rightly, that their religious values are simply incompatible with the new faith, and so they pour scorn on it, calling it a "mad dog" and those members of the clan who convert to it as "excrement."

At the same time, one shouldn't ignore the power dynamics at work here. The clan elders and the acolytes of Agbala realize that their spiritual power is under threat from Christianity as more of their people convert to the new faith.

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