Mr. Kiaga in Things Fall Apart

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In ''Things Fall Apart,'' there are many characters that are only present for a few chapters, yet they are still vital to the story. In this lesson, you'll learn about one such character: Mr. Kiaga.

Who is Mr. Kiaga?

In real life, there are people who you might know only for a year or two, or even just a few months, yet they still leave a lasting impact. This happens in literature, too, and is often marked by a character who only appears for a few chapters. And just like with people in real life, a character doesn't have to be present in the novel for a long time to leave a lasting impact. In Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, one such character is Mr. Kiaga. He is only present for three chapters, but he is still an important player in the overall movement of the plot.

Description

Mr. Kiaga is an Igbo man, and he speaks Ibo, the main language in the novel. He is part of the group of missionaries that comes to Mbanta while Okonkwo is living there with his mother's clansmen. Since Mr. Kiaga speaks the language, he serves as an interpreter for the white missionary who comes to Mbanta. Mr. Kiaga speaks a different dialect than the people of Mbanta, and they make fun of him for this, 'but he was a man of commanding presence and the clansmen listened to him.' Eventually, he is put in charge of the little church that goes up in the forest outside of Mbanta.

The Mbanta church would have looked much like this traditional Igbo house.
Traditional Igbo house

An Insider

The fact that Mr. Kiaga is an Igbo man is very important in his role as missionary. It means that the villagers are more likely to listen to him than the white man he interprets for because he is one of them. He speaks their language and knows their ways, and even if they don't agree with the ideas that he is talking about, the villagers respect him.

Speaking the same language as the villagers is a big help in Mr. Kiaga's work, too. He doesn't have to have an interpreter, which makes his preaching more effective. The Christian ideas are very strange to the Mbanta people, and having someone who can explain it as a native Igbo speaker makes it easier for everyone involved.

A Missionary

At the most basic level, Mr. Kiaga is a missionary. He is there to build a church and convert the Igbo people to Christianity. What is important and ultimately crucial to his success is the way he goes about it. He preaches acceptance alongside the basic Christian beliefs, and he never oversteps his authority in a way that will offend the villagers. He also prevents his congregation from offending or attacking them when he can. For example, when the village bans the missionaries because one of the congregation members kills a sacred python, the other men in the church want to attack them. Mr. Kiaga stops them. This general attitude of temperance and acceptance probably saves his life and his church. As the villagers noted, 'There was no question of killing a missionary here, for Mr. Kiaga, despite his madness, was quite harmless.'

His preaching of acceptance, and his firmness in his belief of it, also keeps his church from sabotaging itself. When the outcasts from the village come into the church, the other members want to kick them out. Mr. Kiaga refuses to let them, saying that everyone is equally welcome to be in his church. He loses one or two members as a result, but even then 'Mr. Kiaga stood firm, and it was his firmness that saved the young church. The wavering converts drew inspiration and confidence from his unshakable faith.' So here we see again that Mr. Kiaga keeps his church together, when under a different missionary it might have fallen apart.

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