Character Analysis Reverend James Smith


Reverend Smith is a missionary who replaces Mr. Brown as the new head of the Christian church. Reverend Smith is strict and uncompromising, the opposite of Mr. Brown who was kind, compassionate, and accommodating.

Reverend Smith is a stereotypical fire-and-brimstone preacher: "He [sees] things as black and white. And black [is] evil." He is intolerant and disrespectful of Igbo beliefs and customs and likens Igbo religion to the pagan prophets of Baal of the Old Testament; he considers their beliefs to be the work of the devil. Reverend Smith demands that Igbo clansmen who convert to Christianity reject all indigenous beliefs. He is determined to follow a strict interpretation of the scriptures. Mr. Smith demonstrates his intolerance of Igbo beliefs when he suspends a woman convert from the Christian church who followed traditional custom regarding her dead ogbanje child.

Because Reverend Smith expects converts to adhere to all Christian scripture and dogma in a very narrow-minded manner, he incites converts to become overzealous, even fanatical, about their newfound belief. After Enoch, a zealous convert, creates a conflict during an Igbo ceremony, the egwugwu, or ancestral spirits of the clan, burn Enoch's compound and then proceed to the church compound. Reverend Smith, who has no idea why the egwugwu are upset (nor does he care), is unharmed only because of Mr. Brown's preceding compassion toward the Igbo people and his understanding of their beliefs. The egwugwu destroy Reverend Smith's church.