Things Fall Apart

How does Enoch create the conflict between the church and the clan? How was this event foreshadowed earlier in the novel?

Chapter 22

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The festival of the earth goddess comes, when the egwugwu roam around the villages. It falls on a Sunday, and so the main passages are blocked by the ceremonies, especially for women, who have to maintain their distance from the masked spirits. On this occasion, the Christian women who have gone to Church cannot return home. Some of the Christian men beg the egwugwu to retire briefly, so that the women will be allowed to go home. The egwugwu agree. As they are retiring, Enoch boasts arrogantly that they would not dare to touch a Christian. One of the egwugwu strikes Enoch with a cane; Enoch unmasks him. To unmask an egwugwu is considered a terrible sin. The Igbo believe it kills the egwugwu.

That night, the Mother of Spirits roams the villages, weeping for the death of her son. The spectacle is terrifying. Mr. Smith hears it, and for the first time feels fear. The egwugwu approach the church. They will not harm the people, but they could no longer allow the church to work its evil among the Igbo. They destroy the building.


Enoch's act is offensive in all senses. He is trying to start a holy war; when Mr. Smith hides him in the parsonage, Enoch is disappointed. He wants blood. His inflammatory comment comes right after the egwugwu have made a generous concession. Though the clan tries to compromise with the new religion and new government, it proves impossible. The white man has no respect for Igbo ways, and the new religion is intolerant and hypocritical, preaching peace out of one side of its mouth while serving an imperialistic government. It appeals to troublemakers like Enoch, who uses the new religion to goad people towards war.

And the people of Umuofia are afraid. When the Mother of Spirits roams the villages, weeping for her son's death, it seems that she is weeping for the death of the clan. The people of Umuofia are being destroyed. Yet again, the response of the clan is something of a compromise. In spite of the grave offense that has been committed, they kill no one. They simply decide to remove the source of the problem. They will destroy the building.