Study Guide

Things Fall Apart Chapter Twenty-Two

By Chinua Achebe

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Chapter Twenty-Two

  • Mr. Brown is replaced by Mr. Smith who, in modern terms, would be deemed a religious fanatic. He sees things as black and white, with black being evil. Unlike Mr. Brown, he has no tolerance for traditional Igbo practices or beliefs.
  • Mr. Smith thinks Mr. Brown focused on getting lots of converts instead of spending time teaching his converts a deep understanding of the Christian religion. He sees many of the new Christians as little better than the heathens.
  • With Mr. Smith in town, the more zealous converts get free rein to act on their fanaticism.
  • Enoch – a proud, zealous, and belligerent convert – commits the ultimate crime. During the worship of the earth goddess, he taunts one of the egwugwu, saying that the masked “spirit” wouldn’t dare touch a Christian. In response, the egwugwu smacks Enoch with a cane. But Enoch retaliates by publicly unmasking the egwugwu! This is akin to killing a god.
  • That night, the Mother of the Spirits loudly weeps throughout the town, mourning the death of her dead son – the unmasked egwugwu. “It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming – its own death.”
  • The next day all the egwugwu gather to seek vengeance on Enoch. They storm the village, destroying Enoch’s compound and then head to the church.
  • In the meantime, Mr. Smith, after much prayer, has decided to hide Enoch from the clan’s wrath. However, he almost buckles with fear when he sees the terrifying masked egwugwu approaching. The previous night, Mr. Smith had also been freaked out when he heard the wailing Mother of Spirits.
  • Mr. Smith and his interpreter, Okeke, stand their ground outside the church.
  • The egwugwu rush Mr. Smith and Okeke and surround them.
  • The head of the egwugwu – Ajofia – speaks to the interpreter, telling him that the white man should go home. They will not harm him, but they cannot allow the church to stand anymore.
  • When Mr. Smith tells them to leave this house of God, Okeke wisely and deliberately mistranslates the message. He merely asks the egwugwu to leave matters in Mr. Smith’s hands.
  • They refuse. Though they do not kill any of the Christians, they burn the church to the ground.
  • “And for the moment the spirit of the clan was pacified.”

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