Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe
Contributed by Jack Shields
Chapter 16

It is two more years that have passed before Obierika visits Mbanta a second time, again with unfortunate news. White missionaries have arrived in Umuofia, have started a Christian church, and have converted some people. The clan leaders are frustrated in the villagers, yet they trust that the converts are just efulefu, the useless and weak men of the village. None of the believers holds a title in the clan.

Obierika's sole purpose behind the visit is to inform Okonkwo that he saw Nwoye in the company of missionaries in Umuofia.  Obierika asked Nwoye for what good reason he was in the village, Nwoye responded that he was "one of them." When he asked some information about his father, Okonkwo, Nwoye answered that "he is not my father."

Okonkwo refuses to talk with his friend about Nwoye. It is only after a conversation with Nwoye's mother that Obierika gets to know what had happened to the family: Six men arrived in Mbanta, including one white man. Everybody was interested to see him in the wake of hearing the tale of the Abame demolition. The white man had an Igbo translator — with an unusual dialect — and, through him, addressed them about Christianity. He informed them regarding another god who made the world and mankind; this new god would replace the useless gods of wood and stone that they had worshiped. Love of the genuine god would guarantee that they would live perpetually in the new god's kingdom. The white man disclosed to them that he and his people would come to live with them and would bring numerous iron horses for the villagers to ride.

Initially, the missionaries drove the villagers away when they discredited their gods. However, the white man started singing beautiful hymns that attracted the villagers. Okonkwo saw nonsense in what the white man was saying but Nwoye found a lot of value in what the white man was saying. Nwoye converted.


Obierika can comprehend Nwoye's explanation after he converses with Nwoye's mother. Her story might be thoughtfully described in light of the fact that she is defensive of Nwoye.

The missionaries appear to prevail upon numerous individuals of Mbanta rather rapidly. The first converts are individuals with low status in the clan. The ministers' words fill a void in the lives of the converts. The Christian song, for instance, touches the "silent and dusty chords in the heart of an Ibo man." (The old-style spelling of Ibo is used in the text; the modern spelling is Igbo.)

Considering the fate of the Abame village after the arrival of the white men, Mbanta's welcome of the acceptance of the missionaries is not shocking. The presence of just a single white man among the missionaries may have necessitated the villagers to change their attitude against the missionaries. The villagers are naturally suspicious about the Christian message yet at the same time inquisitive to take in more about the weird religion and white skin with which they are unacquainted. Additionally, the strategy where the missionaries use sweet sounding hymns and words has worked in favor of the missionaries since there are many individuals who accept the message.  Additionally, they promise material gifts such as bicycles and new experiences and that entices a few villagers.

Finally, Achebe presents the difficulties that exist in the Igbo language. While it is important for the white man to have a translator, it is surprising that even the natives are surprised at the Igbo dialect of the translator. The translator uses a version of the Igbo dialect whose words sound and mean differently to the words of the Umuofia Igbo. For instance, when the translator means ‘myself’ the Igbo understand it as ‘my buttocks.’

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