Now Okonkwo is happy because he feels that his clan has come together again and believes that things will soon return to normal. Even though no one was killed, Okonkwo believes that Umuofia acted in a manner commensurate to their former selves. They acted like warriors.
Two days later, the District Commissioner returns from his trip abroad and meets with Mr. Smith. After hearing his version of the calamity, he calls the leaders of the clan for a meeting and asks them to explain their side of the story to him and to twelve other government officials. Before anything could be said, the leaders are handcuffed and taken to prison where their heads are shaved. They are made to sit in silence for two days without any kind of food, water and toilet facilities. On the third day, they finally discuss among themselves whether or not to pay the fine. A guard hears them and beats them all with a stick.
A fine of two hundred and fifty bags of cowries is demanded for their release. Fearing the kind of destruction that occurred in Abame, the villagers decide to collect the money to pay the white men for the release of their leaders.
This chapter reveals the oppressive measures that the white men would take to enforce their growing control in the area. The reader here sees the immense power and treachery of the whites, who invite the leaders for a discussion, but imprison them instead. The treatment meted out to them in the prison is shocking and distressing. The reverence that is otherwise shown to these leaders by the members of the clan is missing here. Instead, they are treated like common prisoners. The entire village mourns for the men and come together to pay the fine to the white men as well as the native “lackeys” who reinforce colonial power by identifying with their oppressor to the extent that they end up being as brutal and inhumane towards them as the white men are. Through both religion and government, the British have managed to turn Igbos against each other. The corruption that exists in this system is vast yet it is condoned. The harsh treatment meted out to the villagers makes Okonkwo’s action in the next chapter even more understandable.
Okonkwo and his fellow prisoners are finally released and they return home. They are angry and do not speak to anybody they meet. That night a crier announces a meeting the next morning and Okonkwo brings out his warrior dress, vowing to take vengeance himself if the clan does not. He lies awake the whole night thinking of his revenge.
The next day a meeting is called. People come from villages far away. Okonkwo is ready to defend his use of violence despite what other elders may say. He is tired of making concessions and being exploited. The first person to speak is Okika who incites the crowd and relays to the people the heinous crimes committed by the white men, in the name of God. He makes gestures towards taking action and talks of rooting out the evil. At that moment, five court messengers are seen approaching the meeting. One steps forward and says that the white man has ordered this meeting stopped. Okonkwo immediately removes his machete and beheads the messenger in charge. Nobody tries to stop the other messengers from escaping. Seeing this kind of fear among the people, Okonkwo is very disappointed and walks away realizing that his clansmen will never go to war.
With the increasing disempowerment of his people as well as the stripping of his own personal pride after being imprisoned, Okonkwo finally takes the matter into his own hands. Because he does not know how to deal with conflict other than through violence, Okonkwo prepares himself for battle the night before the meeting. He is determined to take action after his humiliation at the hands of the white man. His action of killing the messenger is not impulsive, but the result of emotions that have been suppressed as well as fed by the various incident occurring in Mbanta and Umuofia that needed an outlet. Looking at the reaction of the villagers, some of whom condemn or fear his action, Okonkwo knows that Umuofia will not go to war but quietly concede all power to the British colonial forces. He discerns tumult among the people but not vindictiveness or anger. His village has changed inexorably and will never be what it was. Okonkwo cannot save it singlehandedly and therefore defeat is imminent. Solemnly, “he wiped his machete on the sand and went away.”
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