Things Fall Apart

How does Okwonkwo react to all the changes the missionaries have made when he gets back from his exile ?


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Okonkwo had hoped to return to his fatherland with joy and celebration, but he finds Umuofia sadly changed. The Igbo are no longer free to dispense justice. For the crime of manslaughter, Igbo custom demands the relatively humane punishment of exile. The white man, in contrast, demands execution. White laws are not superior or more humane than the laws of Umuofia, yet the whites insist that Igbo laws are inferior. In building their courthouse, they rob Umuofia of its self-determination.

The religion and the new government are wreaking havoc on the harmony of Igbo life. Social instability and the threat of violence have arrived in full force, and armed resistance is impossible. The old religion is threatened; with humiliation, the Igbo are forced to bow down to white authority. Okonkwo is horrified.

He and Obierika discuss what has happened. He wonders why the men of Umuofia do not rally and fight; they are a proud and strong people. But Obierika fears that if they do, the same fate will befall them as befell Abame. Resistance is now difficult, because fighting the white man would also mean going against the converts. Obierika puts it succinctly: "The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart" (126-7).