Katie McAlister Mrs. Cartier

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Katie McAlister

Mrs. Cartier

Honors English II


Things Fall Apart

In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart the author illustrates how forcing your beliefs on someone gets you nowhere. In this book Chinua emphasizes this in many ways. One is with the gentle Mr. Brown, the first missionary to come to the Ibo tribe. “Mr. Brown preached against such excess of zeal… And so Mr. Brown came to be respected even by the clan, because he trod softly on its faith… he had been presented with a carved elephant tusk, which was a sign of dignity and rank”(178). This shows just how much understanding and not trying to improve people can change their entire view on you. The Ibo had just accepted him, despite his different opinions and even presented him with honor and rank. Later in this section Mr. Brown also sits down with another tribe member to talk about religion, and the author uses this to help illustrate that communication is key, and without it you come to a clashing of cultures. “‘You say there is one supreme God who made the heaven and the earth,’ said Akunna on one of Mr. Browns visits. ‘We also believe in him and call him Chukwu. He made the world and the other gods.”(179). Even though these two men don’t fully agree with one another, this communication is allowing them to learn what each other think, to see what is similar about their thoughts, and be civil about their opposing views. The opposite of Mr. Brown is Reverend Smith, who comes to replace Mr. Brown after he falls ill and has to return home. His approach to converting the Ibo is a lot more forceful “He was a different kind of man. He condemned openly Mr. Brown’s policy of compromise and accommodation. He saw things as black and white. And black was evil.”(184). Reverend Smith caused hatred between him and the tribe and forced Umofia to ostracize the church completely, after openly defying the religion of the Ibo by ruining tradition and trying to force them into Christianity and see their way of life as evil. This kind of approach only ends badly, and forcing your views on someone makes them recoil no matter the circumstance.

Religion is a huge deal in the Ibo culture. Everyone has their own personal god, or chi. And the gods bring good fortune and need to be pleased. “The Feast of the New Yam was approaching an Umofia was in a festival mood. It was an occasion for giving thanks to Ani, the earth goddess and the source of all fertility”(36). Ani was the goddess of mortality as well and if she was not pleased then you would be plagued with bad fortune. The Ibo were very strict in their religion, when Okonkwo interrupted the Week of Peace by beating his wife he was met with strict reprimands by the earth goddess priest. “’Take away your kola nut. I shall not eat in the house of a man who has no respect for our gods and ancestors… you have committed a great evil… The earth goddess who you have insulted may refuse to give us her increase and we shall all perish… you will bring to the shrine of Ani tomorrow one she-goat, one hen, a length of cloth, and a hundred cowries”(30). This harsh Ibo religion also saw twins as cursed, and when the missionaries came mothers saw that their children could live. “Nneka had had four previous pregnancies and child-births. But each time she had borne twins, and they had been immediately thrown away”(151). So women saw the missionaries and the Christian church as an opportunity to let their kids live, because their religion had condemned her children. The Ibo religion is one of tradition and sacrifice, and the people follow the ancestors and spirits without question, like when the elders were told by the oracle to execute Ikemefuna(57), or when babies are mutilated to tell an “evil spirit” not to return to the womb(78).

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