The arrival of Mr Brown as a harmless missionary is the first hand experience the people of Umuofia have with the white men. Mr Brown is a gentle unthreatening man who treats the Umuofians with respect. He even becomes accepted by the elders of the clan. They may not agree with his beliefs and customs but they find him amusing and like him as a person. The way the elders accept Mr Brown as a person and don’t heavily discriminate against him because of his beliefs shows how civilized they are. Achebe shows that the Ibo are willing to respect Mr Brown’s beliefs and make no real effort to restrain his religious practise. The Ibo treat Mr brown the same way that he treats them again showing a civilized attitude. Some Ibo people such as Okokwo and his friend Obierika do not approve of this and forsee the destruction of the clan.
“We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” This is possibly the most famous quotation of the novel and underlines their thoughts and fears. Achebe shows how the white men penetrate the clan from within and begin to crack its foundations. The departure of Mr Brown is a turning point and is where Okonwo’s fears begin to come true. Despite this it could be said that the clan evolved rather than eroded.
“There were many men and women in Umuofia who did not feel as strongly as Okonkwo” This shows that many people didn’t feel threatened by the white men and felt they could benefit from the arrival of the white man. “He had also built a trading store and for the first time palm oil and kernel became things of great price.” The arrival of the Reverend James Smith is a turning point in the novel. He has no respect for the Ibo beliefs and openly condemns them in public. This disrespect for the Ibo culture along with the actions of his most fanatical follower Enoch, provoke the Egwugwu to burn down his church.
This in turn leads to the District Commissioner’s punishment of the Egwugwu. They are deceived and humiliated. Okonkwo “swore revenge”. The fine set by the District Commisioner is increased by the court messengers and shows the corruption of the white men which never existed on such a scale in Umuofia. Achebe is highlighting yet again that in some respects the Ibo culture is purer and more civilized. After this incident it is clear to foresee the end of the novel and what happens to Okonkwo. He ends the novel as a martyr. On the other hand, depending on the reader, he could also be seen as a casualty of evolution.
During the novel Achebe does his best to show the destruction of a civilization. He spends a large proportion of the novel establishing the civilization to create the feeling and sympathy within the reader. He uses emotion to sway the reader into feeling that the white men destroy a pure and natural civilisation. He does this very effectively as shown during this essay and creates sympathy. However I cannot but help feel that the novel could also be interpreted as a fiction of the evolution of tribal culture.
This is emphasized by the fact that both sides commit crimes towards one another. It is true to say that the white men disturbed and invaded the Africans for reasons of greed that are completely unjustified. However the story is only told through the eyes of a strong rooted Ibo idealist (Okonkwo) whose views are in places somewhat extreme. Achebe successfully gives a good account of colonialisation and it’s casualties and through this effectively portays the influence the white men had on traditional Ibo society.