Okonkwo’s exile forces him into his motherland. He doesn’t deal well with his misfortune because he is so intent on being as successful and influential as his father was poor and powerless. His initial lack of gratitude toward his mother’s kinsmen is a transgression of Igbo cultural values. His exile also upsets him because it forces him to spend time in a “womanly” place. He remains unwilling to admit to, or come to terms with, the feminine side of his personality.
Unoka’s words regarding the bitterness of failing alone are important considering Okonkwo’s present situation. Like Unoka, Uchendu reminds Okonkwo that he does not suffer alone. Uchendu laments the loss of five of his wives, openly expressing his strong attachment to the women who have shared his life and borne his children. He mentions that his remaining wife is a young girl who “does not know her left from her right.” Youth, beauty, and sexual attractiveness are not the only things one should value in a wife, he argues. Uchendu also values wisdom, intelligence, and experience in a wife. Each and every death has caused him pain. Although we would not know it from Okonkwo, a father grieves for lost children just as a mother does.
The introduction of the European missionaries is not presented as a tragic event—it even contains some comical elements. The villagers, for example, mock the interpreter’s dialect. They neither perceive the missionaries as a threat nor react violently like the village of Abame, even though the missionaries call their gods “false” outright. And the missionaries do not forcibly thrust Christianity on the villagers.
Considering the emphasis that the Igbo place on careful thought before violent action, Okonkwo’s belief that the people of Abame should have armed themselves and killed the white men reflects a rash, violent nature that seems to clash with fundamental Igbo values. Throughout Things Fall Apart,Igbo customs and social institutions emphasize the wisdom of seeking a peaceful solution to conflict before a violent solution. Uchendu voices this social value when he states that the killing of the first white man was foolish, for the villagers of Abame did not even know what the man’s intentions were.
The language that Achebe uses to describe the pleasure that Nwoye finds in Christianity reflects Umuofia’s seeming need to be soothed physically as well as spiritually. Achebe sets up, from the beginning of the novel, a system of images that accentuate both the dry land and the tense atmosphere in the village. The image of the words of the hymn as raindrops relieving Nwoye’s “parched soul” refers not only to relief from the arid, desertlike heat with which Africa is commonly associated but also to the act of bringing Nwoye out of his supposed ignorance and into enlightenment through Christianity. It begins to quench his thirst for answers that Igbo religion has not been able to provide him.