Enoch in Things Fall Apart

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

Enoch, the son of the snake priest, plays a pivotal role in 'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe. His actions contribute to the ultimate demise of the tribe's traditional way of life.

Enoch's Significance

Have you ever gotten carried away over something new? A new car or music from a new band can excite us, and Enoch goes too far when he joins a new religion in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Enoch is a significant character in the novel because his fervent embrace of the new religion contributes to the disintegration of the Umuofia clan's traditional beliefs. When a zealous new missionary arrives, he and Enoch form a combustible combination that is bound to cause friction in the village.


Enoch is a fervent new convert to the religion introduced to the Umuofia people by the white missionary, Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown attempts to counsel his followers against fanaticism, but Enoch has a mind of his own.

His father is the priest of the snake cult, so his passionate embrace of the new religion may be, in part, a rejection of his father. Enoch is rumored to have killed and eaten the sacred python, and his father has cursed him for it.

He embraces the white men's religion, and repudiates his father's beliefs. In fact, 'Enoch's devotion to the new faith had seemed so much greater than Mr. Brown's that the villagers called him the outsider who wept louder than the bereaved.'

A Quarrelsome Disposition

Enoch is depicted as a quarrelsome man who 'short and slight of build.' Even his physical appearance reflects his personality: '. . . his feet opened outwards as if they had quarreled and meant to go in different directions.'

Enoch also imagined that Mr. Brown's sermons were directed at his own enemies. If he was seated near one of his enemies, he would give them a knowing look.

Conflict with the Egwugwu

Mr. Brown becomes ill and is replaced by a zealot named Reverend Smith. He, unlike, Mr. Brown, approves of Enoch's fanaticism. Once Reverend Smith arrives, the church and the Umuofia clan begin to clash. The conflict reaches its zenith at the annual ceremony for Mother Earth.

Unmasking the egwugwu, or masked worshipers of Mother Earth, was considered a terrible offense. In fact, verbal disrespect of the egwugwu was also an affront. When the ceremony fell on a Sunday, conflict between the egwugwu and the Christians at first seems inevitable.

In the ceremony, the masked egwugwu are a fearsome spectacle. They make fearsome sounds and smoke billows out of the leader's head. The egwugwu are accompanied by the drum and flute, and the Umuofian women flee in terror when the egwugwu appear.

Some of the men of the church negotiate with the egwugwu to allow the women to pass unharmed. As the women leave the church, however, Enoch boasts loudly that the egwugwu would not dare harm a Christian. Enoch grabs one of the egwugwu and unmasks him, thus killing one of the ancestral spirits. The masked men become enraged and beat Enoch with their canes.

That night, Mother Earth walks through the clan's land. The clan heard 'strange and fearful' sounds as Mother Earth expressed grief for her murdered son, and 'It seemed as if the very soul of the tribe wept for a great evil that was coming - its own death.'

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