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Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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Student Question

What is your assessment of the missionaries' approach to spreading Christianity in Things Fall Apart?

Quick answer:

An impartial assessment of the missionaries's approach to spreading Christianity would recognize their methods as brilliant and successful. By building a trading post, school, and hospital, the white missionaries are able to establish a strong foothold in the region. Their influence steadily undermines the Igbo culture by introducing various aspects of western civilization.

Expert Answers

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In Part Three, the European missionaries arrive in Umuofia and gradually begin to undermine the Igbo culture by introducing Christianity and various elements of western civilization. Mr. Brown, the first white Christian missionary in Umuofia and Mbanta, learns much about the Igbo culture and religion by speaking to Akunna. Based on their conversation, he decides that a "frontal attack" will not succeed.

Instead of battling the villagers of Umuofia, the Christian missionaries proceed to establish a foothold in the region by building a trading post, hospital, and school. The trading post brings great wealth to the community, and the villagers begin to develop a positive relationship with the white missionaries.

The villagers also benefit from the hospital and are excited about the opportunity to earn an education. Eventually, the white missionaries begin to acquire more and more converts, which creates a large divide in Umuofia. Many villagers appreciate and benefit from the trading post, school, and hospital and favor the white missionaries. More traditional villagers resent western culture because it undermines the Igbo way of life. An impartial observer would admit that the white missionaries's plan to undermine and overhaul the traditional culture of Umuofia is clever and successful.

By introducing beneficial aspects of western culture to the region, the missionaries are able to establish a foothold and exercise their influence over the Igbo culture. Although the white Europeans are able to undermine the traditional Igbo way of life, their spread of western civilization is not necessarily a good thing. It completely destroys a rich, complex culture.

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