Things Fall Apart Chapter 21 Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

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

This lesson gives a summary of what happens in Chapter 21 of Things Fall Apart. We'll look at Okonkwo's return to Umuofia and what happens when he realizes how much things have changed.

Previously in Things Fall Apart

Okonkwo has returned from exile to his home in Umuofia. He has big plans for his return as he hopes to make himself prominent in the village once again, but when he returns, he finds that the English settlers have changed the village so much that it is not recognizable.

Chapter 21 of 'Things Fall Apart' introduces Mr. Brown, the head of the church in Umuofia, and the many ways in which the English settlers have changed the village. Okonkwo is disgusted by how Umuofia has left behind many of its old ways.

Changes in Umuofia

While the villagers still distrust the English and many of them see the Christian religion as something alien and almost ridiculous, they do like some of the other things that the English have brought to Umuofia. For example, the English begin a trading store. The local goods, such as palm oil, are valuable to people back in England, and the villagers make money by selling those goods via the store.

The English also bring education; a local school run by Mr. Brown, the leader of Umuofia's Christian church, becomes very popular. It teaches its students to read and write, and those students move on and get jobs with the English, finding work in the courts, churches, and schools that the English continue to build.

As the Umuofians become more educated, they even become more accepting of the church and Christianity itself. This is helped along by Mr. Brown, who often meets with villagers and discusses religion with them in order to try and understand their views and convert them to Christianity. In meetings with well-regarded villagers such as Akunna.

Mr. Brown and Akunna Discuss Religion

Mr. Brown spends much time in Akunna's obi, or hut, speaking with him about religion. This relationship is started because Akunna sends his son to Mr. Brown's school to be educated. Akunna explains that the Umuofians believe in one god just like Mr. Brown does; the god goes by the name Chukwu. However, Akunna also says that Chukwu created other gods to help him in his work. When Mr. Brown objects, Akunna points out that god gets help from many servants and argues that even in the Christian belief, there is a head of the church with many servants who help to carry out the will of Chukwu.

Mr. Brown argues that god is not a person and does not need help, but Akunna counters that just as men approach the servants of an important person first before making contact with the important person directly, so must it be for talking to Chukwu as well. Akunna emphasizes that they fear not doing Chukwu's will directly; when Mr. Brown says that in Christianity, God is not meant to be feared unless one does not do his will, Akunna agrees and says that the only reason they have fear is because it is impossible to know what an all-knowledgeable and powerful god wants them to do.

These talks cause Mr. Brown, who is a patient and careful man, to avoid conflict with the villagers. He sees that they have elaborate and thoughtful religious beliefs that are not too far from the beliefs of the Christian church. Instead of attacking the villagers' religion, Mr. Brown decides to try to get the villagers to accept and join the church with kindness, gifts, and free education.

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