“The history of colonies is not simply about implacable opposition against monolithic power; it is just as much a story of multifaceted engagements with cultures of rule as of efforts to negate them” (Stoler and Cooper)

This quote taken by “Between Metropole and Colony” is proven in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The story isn’t just about opposition of power, but the confusion between cultures and even a change within each culture. One prominent change is that of the English missionaries. Mr. Brown seemed to have different goals and beliefs than that of Reverend Smith. When Mr. Brown was in the picture, the tribe did not take him to be powerful or trying to rule them. He is described as, “(he) came to be respected even by the clan, because he trod softly on its faith. He made friends with some of the great men of the clan …” (Achebe 179). He was unthreatening and respectful which allowed him to receive the same respect from the clan. Although there wasn’t agreement on religion, there was still somewhat of an understanding. However, when Reverend Smith came to the clan, he was almost disgusted by the way the tribe lived, not really seeing them as people. While Mr. Brown was seen as peaceful and attempting to help a group of people understand his God, Reverend Brown acted as though he was sent in to train savages. This is one example of a “multifaceted engagement,” causing the clan to be confused as to the missionaries’ aim until it seemed to be too late to fight back.

Reverend Brown and his choice of rule is that which Stoler and Cooper describe as “laboratories of modernity.” Because he thinks his people are of higher caliber, his goal is to experiment with the clan as a kind of “social engineering” trial: beating them and locking them up when they don’t obey, and hanging the worst of the clan members. He is trying to teach them the ‘modern’ way, and that they are still living in an ancient way. The social boundaries had changed so much between Mr. Brown and Reverend Smith that they were no longer clear. To revolt now, as Okonkwo believes is the right decision, would probably only lead to further suffering and death to the clan. Okonkwo’s only attempt to negate the missionaries is by slaughtering the messenger, which leads to his own death, on his own accord. He would rather induce his own death than be ruled by another. The ending to this book leaves with a feeling of hopelessness for the clan; they are in too deep. It also proves that to believe the history of colonies to be solely an opposition of power is much to simple a description to the process of colonizing a people.


About karadim

I am a first year graduate student at American University's MA Literature program.

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