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Free Study Guide-Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe-Free Booknotes
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Chapter 23

Summary

Now Okonkwo is happy because he feels that his clan has come together again and believes that things will soon return to normal. Even though no one was killed, Okonkwo believes that Umuofia acted in a manner commensurate to their former selves. They acted like warriors.

Two days later, the District Commissioner returns from his trip abroad and meets with Mr. Smith. After hearing his version of the calamity, he calls the leaders of the clan for a meeting and asks them to explain their side of the story to him and to twelve other government officials. Before anything could be said, the leaders are handcuffed and taken to prison where their heads are shaved. They are made to sit in silence for two days without any kind of food, water and toilet facilities. On the third day, they finally discuss among themselves whether or not to pay the fine. A guard hears them and beats them all with a stick.


A fine of two hundred and fifty bags of cowries is demanded for their release. Fearing the kind of destruction that occurred in Abame, the villagers decide to collect the money to pay the white men for the release of their leaders.

Notes

This chapter reveals the oppressive measures that the white men would take to enforce their growing control in the area. The reader here sees the immense power and treachery of the whites, who invite the leaders for a discussion, but imprison them instead. The treatment meted out to them in the prison is shocking and distressing. The reverence that is otherwise shown to these leaders by the members of the clan is missing here. Instead, they are treated like common prisoners. The entire village mourns for the men and come together to pay the fine to the white men as well as the native “lackeys” who reinforce colonial power by identifying with their oppressor to the extent that they end up being as brutal and inhumane towards them as the white men are. Through both religion and government, the British have managed to turn Igbos against each other. The corruption that exists in this system is vast yet it is condoned. The harsh treatment meted out to the villagers makes Okonkwo’s action in the next chapter even more understandable.

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