Which chapter could be described as the most important in ‘Things Fall Apart’ and why?

For me, chapter twenty in Chinua Achebe’s seminal work of African literature “Things Fall Apart” is the most important chapter in the entire novel. This is the chapter in which Okonkwo has served his time in exile in Mbanta and makes his return to his village in Umuofia. Okonkwo intensely anticipates the return, and imagines successfully rebuilding his once-promising life in Umuofia:

“Okonkwo saw clearly the high esteem in which he would be held, and he saw himself taking the highest title in the land”.

However, when he returns, he finds that the entire region has been altered by European colonialism. Okonkwo is deeply saddened and, in turn, enraged by the changes to his village that were brought about by Christian missionaries and European forms of government. Obierika relays a story about the way the judicial system has changed the region:

“But he says that our customs are bad, and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one”.

After telling the whole story, the two men sit in silence, reflecting on the great changes to Umuofia. This is why I consider chapter twenty the most important in the novel. Readers can see Okonkwo’s unrealistic expectations juxtaposed with the harsh realities he faces upon returning from his exile.

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