Things Fall Apart

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Mr. Brown, the first white missionary to travel to Umuofia, institutes a policy of respect and compromise between the church and the clansmen. He engages in long religious discussions with Akunna in order to understand the Igbo traditions, and he builds a school and a hospital in Umuofia. Unlike Reverend Smith who arrives later, Mr. Brown avoids resorting to violence and harsh methods of enforcing church beliefs, attempting to use his understanding of the Igbo faith to convert clansmen.

Mr. Brown Quotes in Things Fall Apart

The Things Fall Apart quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Brown or refer to Mr. Brown. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of Things Fall Apart published in 1994.
Chapter 16 Quotes

He told them that the true God lived on high and that all men when they died went before Him for judgment. Evil men and all the heathen who in their blindness bowed to wood and stone were thrown into a fire that burned like palm-oil. But good men who worshipped the true God lived forever in His happy kingdom.

Related Characters: Mr. Brown
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

When Obierika visits Okonkwo, he witnesses the arrival of missionaries in Umuofia. He focuses, here, on the tenants of the Christian religion that have been evangelized in Igbo society.

This description of Christianity shows how cultural and religious norms will be interpreted differently as they manifest in different societies. For instance, consider how Obierika uses the proverb “burned like palm-oil” to translate the Christian concept of Hell into symbolism that functions in Igbo society. Similarly, the tenets of Christianity are rephrased so that they juxtapose directly with Igbo beliefs. That “God lived on high” contrasts directly with the Igbo Earth goddess who lives among the Umuofia people, and the Christian divine justice system similarly conflicts with the way law is meted out in Umuofia.

Instead of a set of oracles and society members who enact the will of the gods, Christianity holds only a single divine judgement that separates evil from good. Here we can see the glimmers of the ideological conflicts between the two: Christian missionaries will assert a single divine authority that directly opposes the social and polytheistic model embraced by Umuofia. Furthermore, by defamiliarizing these components of Christian doctrine, Achebe gives us a sense of how both missionaries and indigenous cultures would have perceived each other: as confusing and heretical.


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Mr. Brown Character Timeline in Things Fall Apart

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Brown appears in Things Fall Apart. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 21
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...into Umuofia. Even the religion is beginning to take hold due to the efforts of Mr. Brown , a white missionary who approaches conversion in a respectful and restrained manner, attempting to... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Mr. Brown makes friends with some of the great men of the clan, and in one of... (full context)
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Mr. Brown uses his understanding to convert more clan members to the church. He builds a school... (full context)
Chapter 22
Religion Theme Icon
Reverend Smith replaces Mr. Brown , and in contrast to Mr. Brown's policy of compromise, Mr. Smith encourages extreme acts... (full context)
Tradition vs. Change Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...the egwugwu. Reverend Smith refuses to move, but he cannot save his church. The church Mr. Brown built is burned to the ground, and the clan is momentarily pacified. (full context)