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Free Study Guide-Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe-Free Booknotes
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Chapter 21


Along with his religion and government, the white man has also brought about some economic changes. A trading store has been built and there has been much exportation of palm-oil and palm-nut kernel. Money flows freely in Umuofia. This attracts many of the Igbo and quells their resistance to the European influence.

Mr.Brown, a white missionary, is the only person who makes the effort to understand the Igbo form of worship. He requests the members of the Church not to degrade those individuals who still want to hang on to their old ways even though he tries to convince the people to send their children to his school. Eventually people of all ages begin to attend his school. Among them is the son of Akunna, one of the great men of the village. Akunna and Mr.Brown often meet, and exchange views on their beliefs. Heavy work eventually takes its toll on Mr. Brown’s health and he is forced to return home. Before leaving he goes to Okonkwo’s home to tell him that his son Nwoye, who is now Issac, has gone to a teaching school in a distant town. Okonkwo however is very angry and throws him out of his house.

Okonkwo’s return is not as memorable as he had envisaged, because too many things have changed in his village. Okonkwo mourns for his clan, “ which he saw breaking up and falling apart”. This phrase is another reference to the title of the book.


The village has begun to thrive economically now under the European influence. Money is pouring in and Western education has become a part of their lives. Commerce to the outside world although it may bring initial monetary benefits to the community will eventually undermine Igbo self-sufficiency and destroy their local economic system. By highlighting these developments, Achebe is trying to point out to the readers how the British managed to convince the local people to accept them in spite of their disruption of the life and customs and also he fairly reveals that not everything about colonialism was destructive. Education and health care were some of the benefits of the colonizing mission. However the question to be debated is whether or not these seeming benefits are really better than the old ways or mere compensation for the havoc imposed on the Igbo and their destruction of their culture.

But Okonkwo still refuses to give in. He had expected his village to remain the same and had been expecting a grand welcome. Because of the changes in the village, Okonkwo finds himself overlooked and disempowered. There are too many other things to talk about and so Okonkwo’s return is barely noticed. Okonkwo mourns “for the warlike men of Umuofia, who had so unaccountably become soft like women.” He had been expecting Umuofia to be different in their attitudes towards the white men than Mbanta, but now he sees they are the same. This is a source of alienation and depression.

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