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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis

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Tensions rise between the clan and the church. One day, some missionaries come into the village and declare that the Igbo gods are dead. These missionaries are beaten, which temporarily puts a hold on the conflict. The villagers begin to hear stories of the white men bringing a government in addition to their religion, but once again, the villagers pay these stories no heed. Then the osu, or outcasts, arrive, and there’s dissension among the members of the church, who don’t want the osu to join them. Mr. Kaiga, the leader of the church, decides to accept the osu, and, empowered, one of them kills Mbanta’s sacred python.

There’s some debate over what to do about the man who killed the python. No one saw it happen, and they can’t be exactly sure who it was. In the end, the village decides to ostracize the members of the church and prevent them from going to the market or even just collecting water. When Mr. Kaiga asks them why, they say it’s because an osu named Okoli killed the python. Soon after, the osu dies, and the villagers of Mbanta think it justice. They don’t bother the Christians after that.


The Sacred Python. Unlike snakes in general, which are often seen as evil spirits, the sacred python is revered for its fearsome power, a symbol of the Igbo gods’ connection with nature.


Acceptance. In contrast to the Igbo, who frequently exile people and turn them into outcasts, the Christians in this novel are accepting of everyone, even the osu, a class of people that is hated and shunned in Igbo culture. Though in Christianity, believers can, in fact, be excommunicated from the church, that isn’t depicted here, and Mr. Kaiga’s determination to accept the osu despite protests from his congregation differentiates him from the village elders and their practice of exiling people.

Justice. When the man who kills the sacred python dies suddenly, the Igbo think this justice. This further differentiates them from the white men, who don’t think of justice as a kind of divine retribution but rather as a system of laws and punishments that exist to maintain order (and, in the process, solidify the white man’s power). The villagers’ willingness to accept the culprit’s death as justice will prove a mistake in the end, when their gods don’t enact the justice they expect and prevent the white men from overrunning their country.

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