Things Fall Apart

Describe the gradual takeover of umuofia by the British

Describe the gradual takeover of umuofia by the British

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The Christians arrive and bring division to the Igbo. One of their first victims is Okonkwo's family. The new faith divides father from son, and the Christians seek to attack the very heart of Igbo belief; such an attack also attacks the core of Igbo culture, as the tribe's religious beliefs are absolutely integral to all other aspects of life. Not coincidentally, the first converts are people who stand to profit from a change in the social order. They are people who have no title in the tribe, and thus have nothing to lose.

The new religion undermines the hierarchies of the culture; Achebe also points out that the religion provides hope to those who have suffered under Igbo law. Although the men without title embracing the religion says little in favor of it (especially since Igbo society has a high degree of social mobility), Nneka's defection to the new faith is telling. She has born four pairs of twins, and has been forced to throw all of them away. Pregnant again, she is desperate to save her children. Not coincidentally, she bears the name that Uchendu mentioned earlier: "Mother Is Supreme."

But just as Igbo faith is integral to Igbo society, the new religion also comes with social and political attachments. Once land has been granted for the building of the church, the whites become difficult to dislodge. They bring their laws and their guns soon afterward, and Igbo men and women are forced to live under the colonial yoke.

During Okonkwo's exile, the church wins a powerful foothold in Umuofia. Even several men of title have joined the new religion. The white man has also built a court house, where a district commissioner imposes white law. The DC is served by a gang of kotma, African court messengers who come from far away. They are greatly hated because they are arrogant and brutal. There is a prison as well, and even men of title are being put there. The white man says that Igbo laws are foolish, and they impose their own law on the Igbo.

In Chapter Twenty-One, Mr. Brown's approach to conversion helps the early church in Umuofia get along relatively peacefully with the clan. Still, he is part of the forces that are destroying clan life. British imperialism also brings benefits, which help to mask the long-term damage being done to the Igbo people. Money from the trade center, the promise of position and wages from the DC, the possibility of an education from Mr. Brown's church: these are all substantial benefits. But the clan also is losing its independence. Even the education at the church comes with the risk of indoctrination.