Things Fall Apart Chapter 16 Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

In chapter sixteen of Chinua Achebe's novel ''Things Fall Apart,'' Obierika comes to visit his friend Okonkwo to find out how and why Nwoye turned his back on his father and left his family to join a church. Please read on for a brief summary of what caused father and son to disown one another.

Summary of Chapter Sixteen

Obierika Takes a Trip to Mbaino

Two years after a previous trip to Mbaino to visit his friend Okonkwo, Obierika visits once again. This time, Obierika wants to know more about why he has seen Nwoye, the son of Okonkwo, among a group of Christian followers in Umuofia. The followers of the Christians are seen as efulefu, or worthless men without titles or social standing.

Missionaries like Charles Lavigerie came to Africa in the Colonial Era to try and win converters to Christianity; missionaries show up in Mbaino in chapter sixteen of the novel for this reason.
Lavigerie

Obierika tried to ask Nwoye himself about why he was there and how his father was doing, but Nwoye claimed that Okonkwo was not his father anymore. Curious as to what happened to cause father and son to turn their backs on one another, Obierika asks Okonkwo to share the story, but Okonkwo refuses to even speak of Nwoye. However, Nwoye's mother tells Obierika what happened to cause Nwoye to leave the family.

The Missionaries Arrive in Mbanta

Christian missionaries, led by a white man, came to Mbanta. Everyone wanted to see him because they had heard a story about a white man who was killed in the village of Abame. When the village came out to see the missionaries, the leader spoke through an interpreter who had a strange dialect, or way of speaking, even though he spoke the same language as the people of Mbanta. This is comparable to having problems with understanding people who speak English with an accent, like being an American and listening to someone speak with a British accent.

Even though the interpreter makes a few mistakes, (he uses the local word for 'buttocks' to describe himself) he is clear enough. He tries to convert the citizens of Mbanta to Christianity and argues that they should leave their gods behind, but the villagers do not take him seriously. They tease the interpreter for his speaking issues and ask to see the white man's bicycle, which they believe is a horse made of iron.

The missionaries bring bicycles to the villages in Nigeria; the villagers of Mbaino think that they are horses made of iron and are interested in seeing one.
bicycle

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