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During Okonkwo’s second year of exile, Obierika comes to visit him, bringing with him two young men carrying sacks of cowries. Okwonko takes him to meet his uncle and while they are talking, Obierika tells them that the clan of Abame has been wiped out. The story follows that a white man had come to their village on a bicycle, or what the villagers call an “iron horse,” and although they had been frightened of him at first, they eventually tied his vehicle to the sacred tree and killed him based on what the Oracle had said about white men who would destroy them. After some months, more white men had come and after seeing the bicycle tied to the tree they left. Months later, when the clan was at the market, white men with guns came and proceeded to shoot all the villagers, except the old and the sick, who had fled. Now the village is deserted.
A discussion occurs between Uchendu and Okonkwo about the foolishness of killing a man who has not said anything or whom they do not know. Although stories have circulated about the white men and their kidnapping of people for slaves, they have never believed them, even though Uchendu says, “There is no story that is not true.” A meal is then set for the guests, and before leaving, Obierika gives Okonkwo the money from his yams that he has sold. He says he will continue to do this until Okonkwo returns to the village or something drastic occurs.
This chapter reveals the importance that white people will play in the lives of the people of Africa. Until now, there have been several references but nothing as tangible as the story in this chapter that shows a conflict between the native peoples and the white men. Both Okonkwo and Uchendu think it was foolish that they killed this man without knowing his story. This shows the respect these men have for human life as well as their insistence on having a reason for killing someone. Even though they based their decision on what their Oracle had predicted, the men do not see this as good enough reason to kill someone.
The reprisal of the white men is quite extreme. That they wiped out a whole village due to the death of one man shows an irrational and unreasoned thinking especially compared to the way murder is handled among the Igbo. This extreme use of violence reveals the white men as having an agenda that is sweeping in its scope. They are not in Africa to co-habitate in peace with the local people, instead they want to instill fear in the native peoples and provoke violent confrontations. Achebe represents the white men in his novel as stereotypical colonists who have no sensitivity to local customs or respect for other cultures. Through this incident, Achebe demonstrates that subsequent conflicts between the white men and the Africans is inevitable.