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[Okonkwo to Obierika]: “How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has a put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” (20.25)
Okonkwo suggests that the Umuofia were foolish and blind for letting the white man stay to work tricks. Now, by force of the Christians’ will and lack of their own, the Umuofia have fallen apart from the inside. It’s interesting to consider whether the Umuofia clan might have fallen apart even without the arrival of the Christians.
[Okonkwo]: “Afraid? I do not care what he does to you. I despise him and those who listen to him. I shall fight alone if I choose.” (24.18)
Okonkwo proudly declares his courage to fight whoever he wants, even if he is fighting a losing battle. This harkens back to Okonkwo’s survival through the horrible year of flood and drought early in his life when he made it through only by force of his indomitable will.
“The white man whose power you know too well has ordered this meeting to stop.”
In a flash Okonkwo drew his machete. The messenger crouched to avoid the blow. It was useless. Okonkwo’s machete descended twice and the man’s head lay beside his uniformed body.
The waiting backcloth jumped into tumultuous life and the meeting was stopped. Okonkwo stood looking at the dead man. He knew that Umuofia would not go to war. He knew because they had let the other messengers escape. They had broken into tumult instead of action. He discerned fright in that tumult. He heard voices asking: “Why did he do it?” (24.39-41)
When faced with his hated enemies, Okonkwo makes a split-second decision and exercises his will by killing the insolent messenger. This is fateful because it should urge the Umuofia to attack more strongly than any other gesture could. Yet the Umuofia, whether by will or being restrained by fate, do not go to war. This helps Okonkwo to make his final decision – to commit suicide.