Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Things Fall Apart Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 22 Summary and Analysis

When Mr. Brown leaves Umuofia because of his failing health, he's replaced by Reverend James Smith, a more aggressive, less tolerant man who encourages the zealots in the church to lash out, stirring up trouble in the village. One man, Enoch, unmasks an egwugwu during a ceremony (an act that the Igbo consider one of the highest sins a man can commit). In retribution, the men burn Enoch's compound to the ground, then they burn the church to the ground, pausing only to allow Reverend Smith to come out where it's safe.

Motifs

Drums. There's a saying in Umuofia: "as a man dance[s] so the drums beat for him." This was the case in previous chapters, when Okonkwo wrestled or remembered wrestling with a fiery passion raging inside him. These drum beats are meant to quicken the heart, speed up the action, and drive men to violence. Reverend Smith's association with these drums emphasizes his aggressive religious zeal.

Fire. In Chapter 13, Achebe foreshadowed the destruction of Enoch's compound and the church when Obierika and the villagers burned down Okonkwo's compound. Now it's Okonkwo's turn to burn someone's house down. Though these events are necessitated by different crimes, and though the burning of the church was not specifically required to appease the gods, it must've felt like poetic justice for Okonkwo to turn the tables and do to another what had been done to him.

Symbols

Colors.  Traditionally (at least in Western cultures), the colors "black" and "white" have symbolized good and evil. That make Reverend Smith's "black and white" view of the world primarily a religious one, where "black" represents demons and the evils of men and "white" represents holiness and godliness. However, one can't...

(The entire section is 434 words.)