Things Fall Apart

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Things Fall Apart Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Okonkwo is pleased that the village has retaliated, feeling that this is a return to the warlike men of Umuofia. For two days after the destruction of the church, nothing happens. Even so, all the men in Umuofia walk around armed with a gun or a machete. When the District Commissioner returns from his tour, Mr. Smith goes to speak with him, and three days afterwards, the District Commissioner asks all the leaders of Umuofia to meet in his headquarters. This invitation was not surprising to them, but they decide to attend the meeting armed with machetes.
Okonkwo was one of the leaders who pushed for an aggressive retaliation, and he's pleased that the village men are acting manlier. Also, the fact that the invitation to see the Commissioner isn't strange to the clan leaders shows how much the traditions of the clan have changed already to incorporate the white men. The clan leaders clearly think that they are in a position of power and are being treated with respect.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
At the meeting, the District Commissioner tricks them, handcuffing the men while Ekwueme is telling the story of Enoch's crime. The District Commissioner tells them that they cannot burn people's houses and places of worship, and that they will be released after the village pays a fine of two hundred bags of cowries. The clan leaders do not respond, and the District Commissioner leaves them with the court messengers, instructing them to treat the men with respect.
The white government completely ignores the laws and structures that are already in place in Umuofia. They punish the clan leaders based on their own laws from their own country.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
The court messengers, however, shave the men's heads as soon as the District Commissioner leaves. The court messengers do not allow the clan leaders to leave when they need to urinate, and starve them for three days. On the third day, Okonkwo angrily says that they should have killed the white man, and he's overheard by a court messenger who rushes in to beat the men with a stick.
The court messengers, meanwhile, now see their chance to abuse the leaders of the clan, who are no longer all-powerful.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
The court messengers tell the villagers that their leaders will not be released unless the village pays a fine of two hundred and fifty bags of cowries—increasing the amount by fifty so that they can take a cut. The villagers don't know what to do or what to believe, and Ezinma breaks her twenty-eight day visit to her husband's family when she hears that her father has been imprisoned. It's decided that the village will pay the fine, and they gather the two hundred and fifty bags of cowries.
With all the major changes happening in the community, there's bound to be corruption as well. The court messengers take advantage of the language barrier and confusion to cheat the village of more money. In paying the fine—just as the Mbaino paid the "fine" of Ikemefuna and the virgin to Umuofia early in the novel—the Umuofia are admitting that they do not have the power to fight the white men. The world has changed.
Themes
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
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