Okonkwo returns to his clan knowing that seven years is a long time to be away. He realizes that he has lost his chance to lead his clan against the new religion and his chance to claim the highest titles. However, he still believes that he can return with a flourish. He plans to rebuild his compound on a more magnificent scale, with room for two new wives. He also plans to initiate his sons into the ozo society. After Nwoye joined the Christians, he told his other sons that they could follow in Nwoye's steps if they wanted to, but that he would curse them and haunt them after his death.
Okonkwo is not prepared for all the changes that have occurred in his clan. He believes that he can attain the same status by showcasing his masculinity and strength as he did before. He treats his others sons in just the same way he treated Nwoye—primarily he threatens them to get them to "be strong" and do as he wants.
Ezinma has grown into one of the most beautiful girls in Mbanta. She is called the Crystal of Beauty, just as Ekwefi had been called in her youth. She has many marriage prospects in Mbanta, but refuses them all because she knows that her father would like her to marry in Umuofia. She gets her half-sister Obiageli to do the same. Okonkwo continues to wish that Ezinma were a boy, since she understands him best out of all his children. He hopes that his daughters will also attract considerable attention in Umuofia.
Ezinma's relationship with Okonkwo reveals more about Okonkwo's views of masculinity. Because she is his favorite child, he wishes that she had been born a boy, showing that he thinks highly of her and believes she could have attained a high standing in society. At the same time, he hopes that, as a beautiful, marriageable woman she will help him to rebuild his own power and prestige.
In the seven years of Okonkwo's exile, the church has grown to influence more of Umuofia's culture. More clan members have converted, including some men of title. The white men have also built a court where a District Commissioner judges cases, and messengers called kotma guard the prison. The messengers are especially hated for being arrogant and foreign, and they earn a nickname of Ashy-Buttocks because of the ash-colored shorts of their uniform.
The white men's religion has grown in influence, and once it gained that influence the white men brought in their own government as well that now exercises power as well—it judges cases as the egwugwu once did and exacts punishments in its prison. It is, in other words, effectively destroying the sovereignty of Umuofia society. The clan retaliates with ridicule and language, calling the court messengers names, but this doesn't achieve much for them.
Upon hearing these things, Okonkwo wonders why the clan does not fight back and expel the white men. Obierika replies that is it already too late and that many of their own men and sons have joined the Christians. He mentions a case where the white men hanged Aneto over a land dispute, when in Umuofia's justice system, he would have been exiled instead. Obierika says that there is no way for the white man to understand Umuofia customs when he doesn't even speak the same language.
Once the new religion converts clan members, it becomes impossible to fight them off because the clan would effectively be fighting itself. The story of the case and its punishment shows both how the white man's justice system has replaced the Umuofia system and that, despite what you might expect, the white man's system can actually be more brutal than that of the Umuofia (even though the white men certainly think of the Umuofia as "savages"). Obierika and Okonkwo's conversation reveals the importance of language—without a common language, Obierika believes that it's impossible to understand another culture's customs.