Things Fall Apart


Chapter 21 to Chapter 25

Chapter 21

Not everyone feels the same way as Okonkwo, however. They like the trading store that the white man has brought. There is much money about. The new religion is referred to as madness, but this may have something to do with Mr. Brown, the missionary, whose tactics are very provocative. He is mostly kind to the villagers and tries to get along with them.

Mr. Brown is revealed to be an English missionary: “The head of my church… is in England.” Obviously, he is Anglican—a breakaway from the Catholic religion of Rome. Thus, he himself represents the image of something whose center did not hold (and recalls the reader’s attention to the novel’s title).

Mr. Brown learns more about the clan’s religion. He builds a school and small hospital in the village. He begs families to send their children there. Mr. Brown also says that if families do not send their children to his school, strangers will come to rule them.

Mr. Brown’s mission grows. Mr. Brown himself, however, is in poor health. When Okonkwo returns, Mr. Brown pays him a visit. He wants to tell Okonkwo that Nwoye, now named Isaac, has been sent to a new training college in Umuru. Okonkwo drives Mr. Brown away with a threat of violence.

In this chapter, Okonkwo mourns for the clan of Umuofia, which in his eyes has become soft like women. He alone seems to have any fight in him. He despises the white men and their religion and their tactics. He does not like the way his people have submitted to them.

Chapter 22

If the preceding weren’t bad enough, Mr. Brown’s successor, the Reverend James Smith, is even worse. Mr. Smith sees everything in terms of black and white. He does not compromise. He does not like the ignorance of his flock. If Mr. Brown seemed like Okonkwo’s equivalent, Mr. Smith is Okonkwo’s double image. Smith is as intolerant of ignorance as Okonkwo is of laziness.

Mr. Smith uses cruel punishments against those who fall or...

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