Things Fall Apart Chapter 23 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 twenty-three of ''Things Fall Apart,'' the conflict between the villagers of Umuofia and the English settlers continues. Read on for a short summary of what happens next!

Previously in Things Fall Apart...

When Okonkwo returns home, he finds that a Mr. Brown has established a Christian church in Umuofia. While the church and village co-exist peacefully enough while Mr. Brown is in charge, soon he leaves and is replaced by Reverend Smith. Reverend Smith is aggressive and closed-minded, and this encourages the more volatile members of his congregation to become bolder in attacking the Umuofians and their traditions. When one convert attacks and desecrates an important religious figure in the village, the Umuofians respond by destroying the Christian church. However, that is not the end of this conflict.


Okonkwo, who was one of the egwugwu, or masked men acting as the ancestral spirits of the village, who burned down the church, feels glad to have finally struck out against the English settlers. He convinced the egwugwu that it was time for action rather than passive acceptance, and they followed his lead, making him feel like a prominent member of the village once again and causing him to believe that Umuofia was once again finding his fighting spirit.

An African machete (from the Congo). The men carry machetes with them in case the English try to ambush them for destroying the Christian church, but these machetes are not enough to protect the Umuofian leaders from being captured and imprisoned.

After they burn the church, the men of Umuofia walk around armed, wary of an open ambush in the streets by the English settlers in the region. Meanwhile, Reverend Smith, the head of the church, meets with the District Commissioner, the man that the English see as the leader of the region, and three days later, the District Commissioner sends a message to the leaders of Umuofia asking them to meet with him. The leaders of Umuofia suspect nothing, as both of these things are common occurrences, but Okonkwo does suggest that they accept the meeting as men and arm themselves for security. However, they only carry machetes and not guns as they believe that carrying guns would be culturally unacceptable.

When the leaders get to the District Commissioner's office, he acts friendly and invites them to share what happened so that they can work to avoid such incidents in the future. He also asks for twelve of his men to join them so that they too can understand the issue. However, partway through the leaders giving their side of the story, the District Commissioner's men physically attack and restrain the leaders of Umuofia; the men only brought machetes and have no time to pull them out.

The District Commissioner says that the English law is supreme in the land now and imprisons them until they pay a large fine of two hundred bags full of cowries, the metal money that is used by the natives. The silent, upset leaders say nothing, and the District Commissioner leaves them to be imprisoned, asking his guards to treat the prisoners with respect.


The guards, however, do not respect the men, their social achievements, or their titles. They shave the heads of the men, insult their social achievements, and physically assault them. The leaders of Umuofia are not given food or drink. The angry Umuofians sit in silence until the third day, when Okonkwo claims that they should have killed the English before the English were able to get a foothold in the town. A messenger hears this and beats the men in response.


Meanwhile, in the village, the court messengers have told the town that it will cost two hundred and fifty cowries to have the leaders of Umuofia released from prison; they plan to take the extra fifty bags full of cowries and split them amongst themselves; not only have the English brought their court, but they have also brought fraudulent ways to the village.

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