Things Fall Apart Chapter 22 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 22 of 'Things Fall Apart,' the relative peace in Umuofia between the church and the local villagers changes when the old leader of the church, Mr. Brown, is replaced by Reverend James Smith. Read on for a summary of what happens when tensions rise!

Previously On Things Fall Apart...

Okonkwo has returned to Umuofia after seven years, but things have changed. Though he still rejects the religion and customs of the English who have come to their village, many others welcome the trading market, the church, and the schools that the English have brought to the land. Mr. Brown is responsible for much of the growing relationship; he is kind and patient in his dealings with the villagers of Umuofia.

The Reverend

Mr. Brown has done much to entrust himself to the villagers of Umuofia. However, he leaves the area and is replaced by the Reverend James Smith. Reverend Smith, unlike Mr. Brown, is impatient and rejects even learning about the religion and culture of the Umuofians. In fact, he is aggressive in banning people from the church who still act in the ways of the villagers or who do not follow the Christian tradition exactly. His view is that the traditions of the Umuofians are superstitions spread by the devil.

Reverend Smith's aggressiveness causes his followers to act aggressively as well; no longer are they held back in their actions by the more cautious Mr. Brown. This means that more conflicts between the converted Christians and the traditional Umuofians happen almost immediately once Reverend Smith is in charge.

Enoch and the Egwugwu

Enoch, an Umuofian who has converted to Christianity, is a particularly zealous follower of the religion, so much so that the village sees him as a more devout Christian than Mr. Brown was. Enoch is also a natural fighter and quick to argument; combined, these traits lead Enoch to causing a major conflict between the villagers and the Christian church centered around egwugwu.

This is an Igbo mask. Masks like these were worn by the egwugwu, or the men who embodied the ancestral spirits of their clan.

In Umuofia, the egwugwu govern the land itself. If there is a dispute, the egwugwu judge it. These egwugwu are the ancestral spirits of the village; they appear physically as men who wear elaborate masks. The egwugwu are so feared that people often run from them; unmasking one would be like killing it.

On a day of religious celebration for the Umuofians, the worship of the Earth Goddess, the egwugwu are walking among the village roads. It is Sunday, so the Christian church is also in worship. When the church services end, the women are scared to go outside with the egwugwu nearby. Some of the men from the church come outside and beg the egwugwu to leave the road for a short time to let the women go home. The egwugwu agree, but Enoch cannot help himself and insults the egwugwu by saying that they would not dare to touch a Christian. An egwugwu, carrying a cane, hits Enoch with it to prove him wrong. Enoch responds by jumping on the egwugwu and ripping off his mask.

The Beginning of the End

This act throws the village into chaos; one of their ancestral spirits has died. The whole night, there is wailing and weeping from the woman who represents the Mother of Spirits, and both the Umuofians and the leaders of the Christian church are spooked. Indeed, the next day, the egwugwu meet in the middle of town, carrying magical amulets that they believe will protect them. The villagers hide in their houses as the egwugwu first destroy Enoch's home, then they head for the church.

The egwugwu meet together

Meanwhile, in the church, Reverend Smith and the church leaders realize that they are outnumbered and cannot show physical resistance to the egwugwu. They decide to hide Enoch for his safety, though Enoch is disappointed because he was hoping that his actions would set off a holy war that the Christians might win.

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