Things Fall Apart Chapter 20 Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

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

Chapter twenty of ''Things Fall Apart'' tells the story of Okonkwo's return to Umuofia and gives the reader a view of the changes that have happened since Okonkwo was forced to leave the village seven years ago. Read on for a summary of this chapter.

Previously In Things Fall Apart...

Okonkwo was banished from his home village of Umuofia for accidentally shooting a young man. After seven years in another land, Okonkwo finally prepares to return home to Umuofia. However, when he returns to his village, he finds that the influence of the Christians who have come from England has spread there as well.

The Comeback

Okonkwo thinks about his return to Umuofia. He knows that the clan might have replaced him and filled his former roles in their society since he has been gone. He particularly thinks about how he missed his opportunity to lead the Umuofians in a war to drive the Christian settlers out of their land. However, he also reasons that there are still many achievements that he can reach and, as is consistent with his very driven and hard-working nature, he decides to do as much as he can to achieve all of the goals that he would have achieved earlier had he not been banished.

Okonkwo believes that part of the way that he can do this is by going bigger; he plans to rebuild his homes and farms to be bigger than they were before he left, and he also plans to show his economic power by taking two more wives on top of the three that he already has. Okonkwo also finds it important to make sure that his remaining sons do not end up like Nwoye, Okonkwo's son who left his family and clan in order to convert to Christianity. By doing these things, Okonkwo thinks that he will support his chi, or personal inner god, and return to greatness.

Modern Nigerians who are part of a traditional Nigerian marriage party; Okonkwo has marriage on the mind in this chapter. He plans to take two more wives and to marry his daughters Ezinma and Obiageli to high-ranking members of his clan in Umuofia.
marriage

A Father and His Children

Okonkwo's plans for keeping his sons as strong members of the clan include initiating them into the ozo society. Ozo is one of the important societal ranks of the clan and a way to start upon the road to becoming an important, titled man in society. However, Okonkwo also wants to make it clear that he expects his sons to act like men, and for that reason, he calls them to his _obi_, or hut, and talks to them. He tells them that if they shame him like Nwoye, he will curse them and cast them out of the house (or that he will come back as a spirit and kill them if he is dead). Okonkwo believes that to be a strong man, one must follow the ways of the clan, and that to break this tradition is something that only a woman would do.

Ezinma and Obiageli, Okonkwo's daughters, are also an important part of Okonkwo's plans for returning to glory in Umuofia. They are beautiful, young, and at the traditional marrying age for the clan, but Okonkwo specifically asks Ezinma not to marry anyone until they return to Umuofia because then, Okonkwo can make sure that they marry high-ranking, wealthy young men within the clan, which will enhance Okonkwo's social status as a result.

Furthermore, Okonkwo asks Ezinma to explain this request to Obiageli. Okonkwo is very close to Ezinma, who he sees as a person who understands exactly all of Okonkwo's thoughts and desires. He also sees her as loyal to the clan and a person with intelligence and drive. Often, Okonkwo wishes that Ezinma was a boy because he believes that were she thus eligible for gaining titles and social status in the clan, she would be the child to rise to leadership and prominence in Umuofia after his death.

The Times, They Are a-Changin'

Okonkwo returns to an Umuofia much changed from when he left it seven years ago. Many people have left the clan for the Christian church, including men who hold social standing within the clan itself. However, beyond the church, the white settlers bring their government and begin to impose its rules on all villagers.

The settlers build a courthouse and begin to administer justice under English rules. The Englishmen who handle things like imprisonment and arrests are called kotma, or court messengers, by the villagers. The foreign judicial system begins to judge and imprison villagers for things that are against English law even if the villagers have a different law. For example, though it is tradition to abandon twin babies in the Evil Forest since the villagers believe them to be an abomination to nature, the court messengers prosecute local villagers for this act and place them in prison if they abandon twins in the forest.

A courthouse built in the 1800s. The English brought courthouses to villages such as Umuofia and began to ignore the laws and traditions of the villagers, instead imposing their own laws and traditions on the land that they had come to. This creates tension between the villagers and the English.
courthouse

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