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But there was a young lad who had been captivated. His name was Nwoye, Okonkwo’s first son. It was not the mad logic of the Trinity that captivated him. He did not understand it. It was the poetry of the new religion, something felt in the marrow. The hymn about brothers who sat in darkness and in fear seemed to answer a vague and persistent question that haunted his young soul – the question of the twins crying in the bush and the question of Ikemefuna who was killed. He felt a relief within as the hymn poured into his parched soul. The words of the hymn were like the drops of frozen rain melting on the dry palate of the panting earth. (16.24)
It is not the logic of the words that touch Ikemefuna, but his own personal story that he associates with the poetic sounds of the words the missionaries are speaking. The song brings back to him the tragedy of Ikemefuna’s needless death.
He [the white man] spoke through an interpreter who was an Ibo man, though his dialect was different and harsh to the ears of Mbanta. Many people laughed at his dialect and the way he used words strangely. Instead of saying “myself” he always said “my buttocks.” (16.9)
Achebe remarks on how the different dialect of an interpreter can alter the speaker’s meaning or completely change the tone of a message. A humorous word substitution here means the people of Mbanta don’t take the white man seriously – at least not at first.
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. (16.9)
The missionaries depict salvation as a choice one makes between good and evil. One’s own fate hangs in his own hands.