Things Fall Apart


Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Reverend Smith replaces Mr. Brown, and in contrast to Mr. Brown's policy of compromise, Mr. Smith encourages extreme acts to provoke the clan. He criticizes Mr. Brown's methods, thinking that Mr. Brown sought nothing but numbers—as opposed to true powerful Christian faith—in his conversions.
Reverend Smith is a more extreme religious leader. He believes his faith is the one true faith, that he has nothing to learn from the Umuofia, and he recognizes the power the whites now wield and so he wants to create conflict.
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Reverend Smith encourages over-zealous converts like Enoch, leading Enoch to enrage the clan during an annual ceremony in honor of the earth deity. As the egwugwu begin to retire during the ceremony, Enoch boasts that they wouldn't dare touch a Christian. When the egwugwu come back to prove him wrong, he tears the mask off of one of the egwugwu.
The two religions finally clash in a major confrontation. Enoch destroys an important symbol of the Umuofia religion when he pulls the mask off the egwugwu. Enoch, formerly powerless, here makes a show of his newfound might.
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That night, the Mother of the Spirits walks the length of the clan, weeping and wailing. The masked egwugwu assemble in the marketplace the next day before heading for Enoch's compound. The Christians decide to hide Enoch in the parsonage for a day or two, which disappoints him, as he had been hoping for a holy war. The egwugwu burn down Enoch's compound and move on to the church, where Reverend Smith and his interpreter, Okeke, meet them. Ajofia, the leading egwugwu of Umuofia, speaks to the two men, saying that they will not be harmed, but that they should not stand in the way of 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.
The clan retaliates against the Christians by doing the same thing that Enoch did—they destroy the symbol of Christianity by burning down the church. Remember back to earlier judgments by the egwugwu, in which they would adjudicate conflicts by determining what price a guilty person must pay to make up their wrong action against another person. Here they do something similar: they force the whites to pay a "fine" (losing their church) equal in value to their offense (ripping off the mask). And they seem to think the matter is settled. But, of course, it is not. They have misunderstood their own eroded power as well as the willingness of the Christians to accept or agree that this is a fair exchange.
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