Things Fall Apart Essay, Research Paper
Opposites do not Attract
In Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, Mr. Brown, the first missionary in Umuofia, was a kind and respectful man. Not to say that Reverend James Smith was not, but his degree of kindness and respect were present in a whole different level. They both wanted to convert the lost, all those in Umuofia that were not in the church. Mr. Brown made friends with the clan and “trod softly on his faith,” (pg.178) while Mr. Smith told them how things were in a harsh voice and tried to force his religion on the people of Umuofia. The impacts the two had on the people and the church were exact opposites.
Mr. Brown was “very firm in restraining his flock from the clan” (pg. 178) and learned from talking to those within the group that “a frontal attack on the clan would not succeed” (pg.181). Because of this insight he gained great respect with many of the high officials. Once he was even “presented with a carved elephant tusk, which was a sign of great dignity and rank” (pg.179) by Akunna.
With this earned admiration he was able to open not only a town store, but a hospital and a school as well. He pleaded for the clan to send their children and all others who wanted to, to attend his school. At first everyone was reluctant to explore this new option for education. Those that chose to attend Mr. Brown’s school would not only learn how to read and write, but they would also learn how to fight back against those that would come in and try to conquer them. With this insight and the kind “gifts of singlets and towels” (pg.181) from Mr. Brown, more people flooded into his school. Mr. Brown’s school not only taught them how to speak and read in another tongue, but “from the very beginning religion and education went hand in hand” (pg.182).
Mr. Smith, on the other, hand was very harsh and “saw things as black and white. And black was evil…” (pg.184). That unfortunate turn of phrase was indicative of ignorance and his attitude from the beginning toward the natives of Umuofia who were dark skinned. Under his control, or one might say lack of control, the “over-zealous converts… now flourished in full favor” (pg. 185) causing the church and clan to meet collide to head for once and all when “Enoch had killed an ancestral spirit” (pg. 186).
Once the egwugwu went to confront Mr. Smith for the killing of one of their members, Mr. Brown’s ignorance and rudeness were revealed even greater than before when he refused to leave the grounds when asked. Because of the reputation and the friendships that were built by Mr. Brown, Mr. Smith was treated with the same respect when confronted by the spirits. Unfortunately, Mr. Smith still would not go and respect the wishes of “the spirits and leaders of Umuofia” despite their kindness regarding the situation at hand. Although “Mr. Smith stood his ground… he could not save his church” (pg. 191) and the hands of the egwugwu tore apart the hard work Mr. Brown put into the church in Umuofia before having to leave both physically and socially.
When the church first came into town everyone was very hesitant and aloof to this new God and church. If is was not for Mr. Brown coming in first and creating the relationships the church would very doubtfully had had the chance to even build a building in the outskirts of town.
If Mr. Smith has been the first to arrive at Umuofia it would have been very difficult to build any trust among the people. Because “Mr. Smith danced a furious step” (pg.185) among the people of Umuofia, the relationship would have undoubtedly been hard to create. It is unfortunate, though, that the people of Umuofia did not have a choice of which missionary, if any, they might have preferred to teach them the ways of the white man. Instead they were stuck with two missionaries, one of which they liked to a point, and another that they could not get rid of.