Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Eighteen

By Chinua Achebe

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Chapter Eighteen

  • At first, the people of Mbanta and the Christians are able to live together in peace because the missionaries stay in the Evil Forest and mostly mind their own business. However, as the group of converts grows in size and strength, confrontations between the Christians and villagers start to occur.
  • One day, some converts come into the village and threaten to burn down the shrines to the village’s gods. This behavior enrages the villagers, and the men beat the converts bloody.
  • There are also rumors that the white people are not only spreading their religion, but their government as well. This means courts to prosecute Igbo for killing converts and missionaries.
  • But in Mbanta, these governments are still a myth. The villagers continue to see Mr. Kiaga as a harmless fool, and wouldn’t even consider killing the converts because that would mean exile for killing a clansman.
  • The missionaries really start bother the clan when they welcome Igbo outcasts – similar to the Hindu untouchable caste – into the church.
  • When the outcasts first enter the church, hoping to be accepted and converted, the native converts protest, worried that the “heathens” in town will ridicule the converts for accepting the outcasts.
  • However, Mr. Kiaga, the head missionary, preaches tolerance and views the outcasts as brothers under God. His only stipulation is that they shave off their mark of ostracism – their long tangled hair
  • The outcasts acquiesce and soon become the strongest adherents to the church.
  • Then an incident occurs which proves to be a turning point. The royal python, the most revered animal among all the Igbo peoples, is killed by one of the converts. This is a crime so heinous that it was previously unimaginable and has never happened before.
  • Okonkwo wants to react with violence, but the elders gloss over the crime. In the end, they decide on the milder punishment of ostracizing the Christians.
  • Okonkwo, though frustrated by the perceived weakness of the Mbanta people, holds his tongue.
  • The Christians in Mbanta are now a rather large group, which is surprising considering that the first missionaries came to Mbanta only a year and a half ago.
  • When the female converts go to the river to get water to clean the church for their Easter celebrations, they are chased away. When Mr. Kiaga asks why they weren’t allowed to collect water, the women answer that the village has made all Christians outlaws.
  • Mr. Kiaga wants to know why they have been banished, and the women respond that it’s because the village believes that a convert, Okoli, killed the royal python.
  • After the village decided to outlaw the Christians, Okoli is found dead from illnesses.
  • The Mbanta people interpret Okoli’s death as a sign that their own gods are fighting back.
  • Happy to let the gods settle the conflict, the Mbanta people take no further action against the Christians.

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