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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis

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When Obierika visits Okonkwo again two years later, he brings sad news: missionaries have built their churches in Umuofia and have begun turning people against their brothers. Consequently, the village has been weakened, and Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, has joined the Christians, finding in their religion the solace he needed after the death of Ikemefuna. He’d joined the church when the missionaries came to Mbanta, preaching that the Igbo gods were just wood and stone and that the true God had made them all and loved them all. Most of the villagers thought the white men mad and didn’t take them seriously, but Nwoye was drawn to their preaching and disowned his father because of them.


Chielo uses metaphor when she refers to the Igbo converts as “the excrement of the clan” and to Christianity as “a mad dog that had come to eat [the excrement] up.”


Music. Music has always been important to the Igbo, and throughout the course of the novel, readers have heard many of their songs, both new and traditional. In this chapter, the Christian hymns pluck at some “silent and dusty chords” in a man’s heart, reinforcing the idea that music is primarily a religious experience. It’s used to foster a feeling of fellowship and joy in the community and thus becomes a powerful tool for the new Christian church, which seeks followers.


Communication. In chapter 15, communication (or, rather, the lack of it) played an important role in the death of a white man in Abame. In this chapter, the white man’s African translator has trouble talking to the people of Mbanta because he keeps referring to himself as “my buttocks.” His preaching has less of an impact on the people than his hymns, which move the villagers in the same way their songs do. These spiritual songs strike a chord with the villagers who had been silently questioning their clan’s violent ways.

Religion. When the missionaries visit Mbanta, the villagers don’t think much of their religion, and because of this, there aren’t any serious clashes between the two religions. Like Okonkwo, those who don’t convert simply shrug and walk away, so secure in their own religion that they don’t even consider the possibility of Christianity being a threat. The Igbo, it turns out, don’t have missionaries. They don’t convert people, but simply expect their gods to prove themselves. This essential difference between the two religions will prove disastrous for the Igbo.

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Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis


Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis