Things Fall Apart Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis
by Chinua Achebe

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Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis

Shortly after the missionaries arrive, they ask for an audience with the elders of the village. They asked the elders for a plot of land to build their church, and instead of refusing, as they should've, the elders gave the missionaries a plot of land in the Evil Forest, assuming that this would bring the evil spirits down on the Christians and destroy them. When the missionaries don't die, the Igbo begin to think that the white men have power, and this leads them to convert. At first, Nwoye isn't sure that he wants to join the church, but is drawn to their kindness. Soon, a pregnant woman named Nneka joins the church, because she's heartbroken that she has borne four sets of twins and had to throw them away. Her family has no problem letting her go, however, just as Okonkwo has no problem disowning his son. He's embarrassed that he fathered such a weak son.


Fire. Near the end of this chapter, the reader learns that Okonkwo has earned the nickname "Roaring Flame." He's embarrassed by Nwoye's betrayal and feels implicated because Nwoye is "weak" and "womanly." He wonders how someone with such incredible passion could beget a more or less passionless son. As he says, "Living fire begets cold, impotent ash." This proverb equates Nwoye with a lifeless thing, suggesting that Okonkwo's destructive, roaring flame has eaten him up and destroyed him.


Chi. One's chi is one's personal god, which is physically represented by a totem and a shrine to which one makes an offering in order to curry favor from one's personal god. Okonkwo's chi appears to have turned against him (as it did when he was exiled) and threatened once again to strip him of his identity. In this way, Okonkwo's chi becomes a symbol of his fate and his failure as a father, which will lead to his death.

Evil Forest.  Unsurprisingly, the Evil Forest is a symbol of evil, the physical manifestation of the fears that the villagers harbor. Evil spirits, diseases, abominations, and so-called changelings live in the forest, making "evil" a tangible...

(The entire section is 537 words.)