Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Fifteen

By Chinua Achebe

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Chapter Fifteen

  • In the second year of Okonkwo’s exile, Obierika comes to visit him bringing along two men carrying bags of cowries (money).
  • Uchendu, upon meeting Obierika, comments that it’s rare to have such a visit since the young men nowadays don’t often maintain relationships with their neighboring tribes.
  • Okonkwo, Uchendu, and Obierika settle in with some conversation and palm-wine.
  • Obierika brings news that one of the clans – Abame – has been completely wiped out. The cause: white man.

  • When the Abame clan came across a lone white man with on an “iron horse” (a bicycle), they were struck by his inability to communicate with them. Their oracle declared that the man would destroy the clan and that he was the first of many white men to come. So they killed him and tied his iron horse to a tree “because it looked as if it would run away to call the man’s friends.” Later that year, a trio of white men arrived, led by clansmen. They saw the iron horse, freaked out, and left. At the market a few weeks later, the entire clan was surrounded and massacred by a group the white men and their native allies. In the end, the oracle’s prophesy came true.
  • Uchendu reacts with rage and the knowledge that people should never kill a man who doesn’t speak. The white man’s inability to communicate, we understand, is unnatural and ominous. He backs up this advice with a folktale which ends with the wisdom that “There is nothing to fear from someone who shouts.”
  • Obierika ends the conversation by expressing his fear of the white men. He had never believed the stories he’d heard about white men with their guns and slaves. Uchendu cautions that, “There is no story that is not true.”
  • Okonkwo’s first wife cooks them dinner and Nwoye brings wine.
  • Over dinner, Obierika catches Okonkwo up on the latest news from their home village.
  • After the men finish eating, Obierika tells Okonkwo that the bags of cowries he brought are the earnings Okonkwo’s abandoned yams fields. Obierika sold the yams, and intends to do the same for every year until Okonkwo returns.
  • Okonkwo is very thankful to his friend for the help and money, and the two men continue to exchange news and jokes. The tone is friendly but slightly tense. One of the jokes cracked is about killing your son to pay back a debt.

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