Things Fall Apart


Chapter 17 to Chapter 20

Chapter 17

The villagers give the missionaries a portion of the Evil Forest. They believe that no one in his right mind would accept such a plot of land, but the missionaries do not share the villagers’ superstitions, so they accept it.

Mr. Kiaga, the interpreter, informs the villagers that the missionaries have built a new church. The villagers were certain that their gods would punish the missionaries. That the missionaries do not die is a great incentive to conversion; a handful of the villagers take it as a sign.

It is reported to Okonkwo that Nwoye is with the missionaries. When next he sees the boy, Okonkwo grabs hold of him and threatens to beat him. Uchendu, however, orders Okonkwo to leave the boy alone; he asks Okonkwo if he is mad. After that, Nwoye never returns to Okonkwo.

Okonkwo is consumed with rage as he stares into the fire and meditates on Nwoye’s seeming betrayal.

The chapter concludes with the author drawing a parallel between the fire and Okonkwo. Okonkwo was popularly called “Roaring Flame” by his people. Yet he cannot understand how he, supposedly a fire, could beget such a boy as Nwoye. Then, as he watches the log burn, he understands: “Living fire begets cold, impotent ash.” This conclusion is a harsh and despairing one. It is, in fact, the exact opposite of the Christian belief that has called to Nwoye, which is that unless a sheaf of wheat dies, it cannot bring forth life.

Chapter 18

The young church rescues twins from the bushes where the villagers take them to die. The new Christians assert that the villagers’ idols are false and their gods dead. Such people are attacked and beaten. There is also talk of the church setting up a government to protect its members. There is a growing separation between clansman and Christians, yet the Christians are still considered as part of the clan.

An early crisis comes for the church when the outcasts, or osu, enter the church on Sunday. There is little...

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