In the novel “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua, Achebe, the missionaries bring a new social and government system to the traditional Umuofia society. As the missionaries gradually absorb more and more people from Umuofia, a stark contrast emerges between the white man’s government and the traditional Umuofia’s government. The missionaries set up a modern and western government in which all people are welcome and all discriminations are eliminated.
Nneke, a woman “heavy with child” and greatly condemn in Umuofia, is warmly accepted into the missionaries’ quarter (Achebe 151). Her convert shows the openness of the white missionary’s government in terms of both gender treatment and traditional superstitions. The missionaries treat men and women equally. On the other hand, the traditional Umuofia’s government and society are male-dominated and give women very low social status and very limited social rights. In Umuofia, Women’s main value is to serve their husbands and families, as shown by the fact that giving birth to children is “a woman’s crowning glory” (77).
Moreover, Nneke’s conversion also demonstrates the open-mindedness of the missionaries’ government because it ignores all of Umuofia’s unreasonable superstitions, while Umuofia’s government stubbornly holds onto its narrow and unscientific tradition that twins must be killed in the evil forest. The white men’s government also shows its tolerance by accepting the osu, the social outcasts of Umuofia. The Umuofia government unreasonably rejects and condemns many social outcasts since their birth even though they have done absolutely nothing wrong to the society. Umuofia sacrifices its social progress for its narrowed and illogical traditions. The outcasts eventually become “the strongest adherents of the new faith” and show that the white man’s government is a better, wiser and more efficient government than Umuofia’s (157). The acceptance of osu not only greatly strengthens the missionaries’ government but also considerably weakens Umuofia, as more and more people convert to the new faith. The wise actions of the missionaries’ government also unite all the converts firmly together by giving them a sense of understanding as the initially “wavering converts drew inspiration and confidence from [Mr. Kiaga’s] unshakable faith” (157).
In a sense, the missionaries’ government is similar to the modern democracy in that merit is more important that birth and social status. In contrast, Umuofia’s government is similar to the feudalist aristocracy in which there are gender inequality, rigid traditions and unreasonable superstitions.
Things Fall Apart. Achebe, Chinua. Anchor Books