Things Fall Apart: Chapters 16-20

I was interested in reading about the spread of Anglicanism from the tribe’s perspective. I’ve read many biographies that detail the missionary’s perspective when settling in a foreign land and learning about the culture and religion of the native people. But I’ve never read about the native person’s view of the “white man’s” religion.

Questions from Books@Random:

  1. Our own news media pre-programs us to view the kind of culture clash represented here as being purely racial in basis. Does Achebe’s work impress as being primarily concerned with black versus white tensions? If not, what else is going on here?
  2. Certain aspects of the clan’s religious practice, such as the mutilation of a dead child to prevent its spirit from returning, might impress us as being barbaric. Casting an honest eye on our own religious practices, which ones might appear barbaric or bizarre to an outsider?
  3. Okonkwo rejects his father’s way and is, in turn, rejected by Nwoye. Do you feel this pattern evolves inevitably through the nature of the father/son relationship? Or is there something more being here than mere generational conflict?
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2 thoughts on “Things Fall Apart: Chapters 16-20

  1. 1. It doesn’t seem to be a black vs. white, but rather a Western vs. African culture. The Ibo villagers were more than willing to accept the first missionary when he was living alongside them, but when the second missionary tried to change their ways and force his own culture upon them, that was when the real trouble seemed to start. And the tension was more between the Africans who followed the church and the ones who did not.

    2. The Catholic concept of transubstantiation would seem odd, our insistence that we not worship idols but instead follow a holy book might seem a bit strange, the churches decorated with a symbol of execution (the cross) … I’ve read another African story where the Africans couldn’t understand the idea of baptism – they believed that demons would enter you from the water, so they couldn’t imagine baptizing their children.

    3. This might be due in part to the father/son relationship, but I think a lot of it stems from the child seeing the failings of his father and determining not to be like that. In order to be unlike his father, each son has decided to be EXTREMELY unlike his father, rejecting what he has accepted and embracing what he rejects. In essence, each son is choosing to throw out the baby and the bathwater.

  2. 1. I think the clash is more between cultures and religion than race. The missionary sometimes insisted on cultural changes that weren’t based on religion or necessary cultural changes like stopping infanticide.

    2. All of the talk about blood and sacrifice in Judeo-Christianity may sound just as barbaric as the African religion.

    3. I concur with Jenni on this point. I was just about to write basically the same answer.

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