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On arriving at Okonkwo’s house after hearing of the murder of the one of his men, the District Commissioner finds a band of men waiting for him. On questioning them about Okonkwo, he gets an elliptical comment from Obierika who then leads him to the back of Okonkwo’s compound, where the body of Okonkwo hangs from a tree. The villagers had not taken his body, because according to their custom, it is wrong for a man to take his own life, and therefore, his clansmen cannot give him a formal burial nor can they touch him. Obierika accuses the commissioner of being responsible for Okonkwo’s death. The District Commissioner orders his men to take down the body, and leaves the place, thinking about the book he plans to write, in which a whole paragraph will cover the story of Okonkwo who killed a white man and hanged himself. The title of his book will be called “The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.”Notes
The novel comes to a close with the suicide of Okonkwo who realizes that although his action is brave, it is not sanctioned by his fellow clan members. His own role in the clan is marginalized and therefore superfluous. Okonkwo cannot move into the new and changing world of the Umuofia that is ruled by the British forces. Instead he takes his own life rather than submit to the hands of the British. In a sense, he does not surrender but dies a warrior. The lamentable part of his death is that such a brave warrior would not get the burial he deserved, because taking one’s own life was an offense against the earth. At the same time the customs of the village are deteriorating, so adhering to this custom almost seems pointless after so many of their customs have become empty of significance with the onset of colonialism.
Achebe shifts the point of view from an omniscient, mostly objective point of view to one that is strictly from the District Commisioner’s eyes. His reference about the natives playing “monkey tricks” is derogatory and racist and reveals his complete lack of respect and concept of them as being primitive. He has no consideration for the dead or for the living, but only for his book that would be a memoir of his deeds and actions. Not only have their resources been commodified but so have the Igbos’ experiences. He thinks he has a deep awareness of their rituals and customs but his ignorance is emphasized in his disdain of them. The title of the book he is writing underscores his unknowing contribution to the demise of Igbo culture as well his ignorance of the complexity of Igbo culture that Achebe has shown the reader throughout the book. “Pacification” is a euphemism for the violent suppression of a culture and his use of Okonkwo’s story shows how incidental the Igbo were to the greater project of colonialism. For the District Commissioner, the end justifies the means.