Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe Summary and Analysis Part 3: Chapter 24

Summary

The District Commissioner sets the six men free after the village pays the required fine, and the leaders quietly return to their homes, deep in misery and not speaking to anyone they meet. Okonkwo's relatives and friends are waiting for him in his hut, and his friend Obierika urges him to eat the food his daughter Ezinma has prepared for him. No one else speaks, seeing the scars on his back where the prison guards beat him.

The same night, the village crier calls the clansmen to a meeting the next morning.

Okonkwo lies awake, thinking of his revenge. He hopes Umuofia will wage war on the intruders; if they don't, he will take action on his own. His anger turns on villagers who want to keep things peaceful instead of facing the need for war, even a "war of blame."

For the meeting in the marketplace, people come from even the farthest villages, except people who are friendly with the white foreigners. The first man to address the crowd is one of the leaders whom the Commissioner arrested. He calls for the village to take action against the unwanted strangers to rid themselves of the evil the strangers have brought. He admits that the Umuofians may have to fight and kill members of their own clan.

Suddenly, five court messengers approach the group. Okonkwo jumps forward to stop them. The messenger in charge says that the white man has ordered the meeting stopped. Okonkwo takes out his machete and beheads the man, but no one tries to stop the other messengers from escaping. The other clansmen are afraid, and someone asks, "Why did he do it?" Seeing such inaction and fear, Okonkwo cleans his machete on the sand and walks away, realizing that his fellow Umuofians will never go to war.

Analysis

After Okonkwo is freed from prison, he remembers better times, when Umuofia was more warrior-like and fierce — "when men were men." As in his younger days, he is eager to prepare for war (not unlike Enoch the convert in the preceding chapter). He is worried that the peacemakers among them may have a voice, but he assures himself that he will continue the resistance, even if he has to do it alone. He will be manly in his actions even to the end.

Umuofian culture has traditionally discriminated against women and other outcasts — and currently against Christian converts. This discrimination has marginalized many people, including even important "sons" of Umuofia. The speaker points out that not "all the sons of Umuofia" are with them at the vital clan gathering; he admits that they may have to kill their own clansmen if they go to war. Yet the speaker feels that they must do battle in order to rid themselves of this evil.

When Okonkwo kills the court messenger, his fellow clansmen almost back away from him in fear; in fact, his violent action is questioned. When he realizes that no one supports him, Okonkwo finally knows that he can't save his village and its traditions no matter how fiercely he tries. His beloved and honored Umuofia is on the verge of surrender, and Okonkwo himself feels utterly defeated. Everything has fallen apart for him. His action in the final chapter will not be a surprise.

Glossary

a war of blame In Chapter2, the villagers state that a "fight of blame" (which Okonkwo expects the peacemakers to label this fight against the strangers) would never be sanctioned by their Oracle, which approves only a "just war." Therefore, what Okonkwo is considering may go beyond even the clan's traditions — a fight for which they may not have full justification from their gods.

creepers plants whose stems put out tendrils or rootlets by which they can creep along a surface as they grow.

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