Summary of Chapter Twenty-Five
The District Commissioner goes to Okonkwo’s obi to find him. A crowd of men is there, and Obierika answers Okonkwo is not there. The Commissioner is angry and threatens to lock them all up unless they produce him. Obierika says they can take him to where he is “and perhaps your men will help us” (Ch. 25, p. 206). The Commissioner does not understand but follows Obierika and the others. They take the Commissioner and his men behind the compound.
Okonkwo’s body is dangling from a tree, and they stop abruptly. Obierika asks for help getting the body down. The Commissioner asks why. Obierika explains it is a sin against Earth for a man to take his life, and his body is evil and no one will touch it. Only strangers can bury it. They will have to cleanse the land.
Obierika then turns and says while staring at his friend’s body: “That man was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself, and now he will be buried like a dog . . “ (Ch. 25, p. 208). The Commissioner tells the messengers to cut down the body and bring it and the people to the court. As he walks away he thinks of the book he is writing. He will put the interesting story of Okonkwo in it, how he killed a messenger and then himself. The book will be called, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.
Commentary on Chapter Twenty-Five
In this last chapter, white civilization has taken over, and Obierika cries in grief the only funeral oration for his friend. Okonkwo, knowing for certain the outcome, and not wanting to let the white man have the satisfaction of hanging him, kills himself, against all the laws of the clan.
We get the impact of the defeat of the Igbo people with the surprise death of the proud Okonkwo. It is a symbol of the deep despair of losing autonomy, honor, their religion and relation to the Earth. The gods and ancestors are dying, and they cannot save Okonkwo or the tribe. There is no sacrifice that can undo what has been done. His suicide, like the killing of Ikemefuna, the boy at the funeral, and the messenger, are sudden and rash, on the one hand, but a deep expression of his chi, on the other hand. He clings to manly violence as the only honorable way of a warrior, even if it turns out to be wrong in both worlds: the white world and the world of his fathers.
The irony of his having given his whole life and strength to provide for his family and clan, only to throw it away in this fashion is truly tragic. Obierika does not condemn his friend as he would an individual committing the same act, however, for it is the fate of his people that Okonkwo represents, more than his own losses
The last stroke of humiliation is the District Commissioner’s relegating the life of Okonkwo and the Igbo people to an interesting footnote in his book on how to conquer and colonize. This colonization is a form of war Okonkwo and his people cannot understand nor survive, intact. Okonkwo sees it all coming, the horror of the ancestors and gods not being worshipped. We get the earlier hint that his son, Nwoye, had gone off to the white man’s school and will come home to convert the rest of his family once his father is gone. They will make the transition to a new Africa, but Okonkwo is the last of his kind.