Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Twenty-Three

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Chapter Twenty-Three

  • Of course, Okonkwo was one of the egwugwu who had advised violence. The destruction of the church makes him happy – it’s like the “good old days” are returning.
  • For the two days after the destruction of the church, all of the men of Umuofia carry weapons in case the white men try to retaliate.
  • Upon the return of the District Commissioner, Mr. Smith immediately goes to voice his complaint.
  • Five days after the church was burned, Okonkwo and five other Umuofia leaders are invited to speak to District Commissioner to discuss the confrontation. Though they arrive armed – at Okonkwo’s suggestion – they fall prey to an ambush.
  • In a move of shameful trickery, the District Commissioner has them all arrested and imprisoned.
  • The District Commissioner sets out to show the men who’s boss. In the District Commissioner’s own words: “We have a court of law where we judge cases and administer justice just as it is done in my own country under a great queen. I have brought you here because you joined together to molest others, to burn people’s houses and their place of worship. That must not happen in the dominion of our queen, the most powerful ruler in the world.”
  • All of a sudden, the men of Umuofia are subject to England’s system of justice and queen.
  • The District Commissioner sets the price of their release at two hundred bags of cowries (yikes!).
  • The imprisoned men don’t respond.
  • Though the District Commissioner tells the kotma to treat the prisoners with respect, these guards have their own agenda.
  • The kotma shave off their prisoners’ hair and starve them for three days straight.
  • On the third day when Okonkwo snarls that they should’ve killed the white men in retaliation for Enoch’s crime, the kotma overhear and beat Okonkwo for his impertinence.
  • The kotma tell the villagers that they must pay two hundred and fifty bags of cowries for their leaders’ release. Otherwise, the men will be hung.
  • Wild rumors spread about what will happen if the bail (or ransom?) isn’t paid. Some say that the whole town will be annihilated like the Abame.
  • The village has a strange, deserted air about it. It’s a night of the full moon, which is usually a time of much activity, but the village is silent and the feeling is ominous.
  • The next morning, the village gathers together the two hundred and fifty bags of cowries. What the clan doesn’t know is that fifty of those bags are snatched by the kotma, who have deliberately raised the price first set by the District Commissioner so that they could take a cut.

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