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Free Study Guide-Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe-Free Booknotes
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Chapter 16

Summary

By the time Obierika pays his next visit two years later, the missionaries have already invaded Umuofia, built their church and begun their task of converting the people to their religion. He also tells Okonkwo that he has seen Nwoye among these people, but Okonkwo refuses to discuss his son’s whereabouts. After talking with Nwoye’s mother, Obierika learns of how the missionaries have converted many people in Mbanta also. One day six men arrived in Mbanta, one of them white. The white man used an interpreter to preach to them about everyone being brothers and sons of God and that they should worship the true god, not the false gods of wood and stone. He also spoke about Jesu Kristi, the Son of God. The people of Mbanta were annoyed by this and began to move away, but when the missionaries burst into song, they once more became interested. Okonkwo had left the scene in disgust, but Nwoye had been struck by these talks and started mingling with them.


Notes

The presence of the missionaries in Mbanta signals the widespread efforts of the “civilizing mission” deployed in Africa in the 19 th century. The appearance of the white man should concern the Mbanta because of what happened at Abame, but they tend to accept him without any animosity and are curious as to what he has to say. The villagers are quite satisfied with their religion and they do not have the desire to change their religion yet the man’s words reach Nwoye as well as others who do not fit in to the rigid roles society imposes on them. To Okonkwo, Nwoye’s interest appears treacherous, but Nwoye, who is a sensitive young man, sees this new religion as being more compassionate. The question in his mind, regarding the twins crying in the bush and Ikemefuna being killed, has never been answered. They had just been submerged in his conscience, and this new religion that seems remote from such harsh concepts seems to provide an answer to these questions. “The words of the Hymn were like the drops of frozen rain melting on the dry palate of the panting earth”.

The missionaries use many persuasive strategies to attract converts. One is the promise of many “iron horses” and the other is the use of rhythmic singing and clapping to draw attention to their message. The differences between these two groups is brought out with humor in the misunderstanding of dialects between the interpreter and the people of Umuofia. Much laughter occurs from the translator’s dialect which is misinterpreted such as the word “myself” for “my buttocks.”

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