Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith are apparently similar in their backgrounds and beliefs, as well as their common English names, though their methods of spreading the faith are quite different. Mr. Brown is “very firm in restraining his flock from provoking the wrath of the clan.” Although he opens the...
church to outcasts and people of low standing, he understands the structure of the community and gains the respect of great men, such as Akunna, with whom he spends hours discussing theology. Mr. Brown is prepared to explain his beliefs in ecumenical terms that Akunna will understand. He accepts that the Christian God is, to all intents and purposes, the same as Chukwu, and is willing to learn from Akunna.
Mr. Smith is introduced as the polar opposite of Mr. Brown:
He condemned openly Mr. Brown's policy of compromise and accommodation. He saw things as black and white. And black was evil. He saw the world as a battlefield in which the children of light were locked in mortal conflict with the sons of darkness. He spoke in his sermons about sheep and goats and about wheat and tares. He believed in slaying the prophets of Baal.
Mr. Smith is distressed to find that Mr. Brown has discussed religion with the Umuofians and tried to explain Christianity in terms of their own ideas, rather than teaching them about such matters as the Trinity and the Sacraments. He believes that he is in Africa to civilize the people and that, as a Christian minister, he does not need to learn from them.
The names of the two men are two of the commonest English surnames. However, a point of contrast is that “Brown” suggests the natural world, particularly the color of the earth, emphasizing common humanity and connection to the world. It is also a color that is neither black nor white. A smith, in sharp contrast, is one who forges metal into shape with fire and hammer blows, a reflection of Mr. Smith’s harsher methods of proselytism.