Justify the title of the novel Things Fall Apart.

Chinua Achebe takes the title of his famous novel “Things Fall Apart” from the famous poem by W.B Yeats named “The Second Coming”. Achebe quotes the four lines from Yeats’ poem on the very title page of the novel. From Achebe’s choice of Yeats’s sentence as the title of his novel, it is possible that Achebe saw Yeats’s philosophy as applicable to breaking the old norms of Ibo society in Nigeria.   

The Ibo society as depicted in this novel, was a stable one, and existed for hundreds of years, or perhaps thousands of years. The social, economic, political, religious, and economic life of the people of Umuofia, Mbanta, and other villages lived in peace and tranquillity. Their main occupation was farming. During sowing and harvesting seasons, they worked hard in their fields from morning to evening. They were hospitable people, and they always gave a warm welcome to their guests. They offered them Kolanut and palm wine to eat and drink and rejoice with them. They lived in cooperation with one another.   

In the novel, Okonkwo was exiled for his unexpected and unintentional killing of a young boy. His large family was also with him in exile in his maternal homeland, Mbanta. Okonkwo’s maternal uncle Uchendu and his sons gave him full cooperation and gave him pieces of land for building huts and farming. Uchendu also gave him the consolation to boost his morale. Obierika proved a real friend to Okonkwo. He proved himself to be “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” In Umuofia, Obierika looked after his farms and gave him the sale proceeds of the agricultural products on the farm.   

The Umuofians had several influential festivals. They observed the New Yam Festival and the Week of Peace with all the requirements of their social code. The wrestling contest was an event for recreation and the culture of physical strength which was of much social value. Telling funny stories, didactic stories, and stories of adventure were prevalent as a means of education and entertainment for children. The art of conversation was given much social value also. Their conversation was laden with proverbs of deep wisdom.  

Their political system was strictly followed. There was a council of elders consisting of nine great men from different clans. They tried all cases of dispute, and their decision was rigorously followed. 

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Their religious system was also extremely strict. Though the people believed in one Supreme God, they also believed in many gods and goddesses’ oracles, evil spirits, the spirits of the dead leaders called egwugwu, and Oracles of the Hills and Caves. For which they had priests or priestesses. Of course, their religions’ beliefs and practices involved some prejudices and cruel judgments like throwing infants turns, and patients of some diseases into Evil Forest, etc. But people were satisfied with all these till the advent of Christianity. It opened the eyes of many to their wrong codes and rituals. 

The Christian white man almost secretly appeared in Umuofia. Mr. Brown, the white man, had many converts among the natives of the African clans. Gradually they spread their religion from one clan to another as the number of converts increased. They established their laws and law courts and built their churches. The new converts and the natives came into conflict with each other, especially under the leadership of Mr. Smith, the successor to Mr. Brown. At the climax of their conflict, Okonkwo killed a court- messenger of the Christians. Then he committed suicide to escape being punished by the Christians. Thus, the death of Okonkwo completed the collapse of the old systems of the Ibo society.  

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From the above discussion, we can understand that Achebe maintains sufficient objective detachment to avoid showing partiality for his native culture or revealing hatred against the Christians. He tries to show exactly what happened, exactly how things in Ibo society collapsed under the traumatic impact of the new power of Christianity. So, the title is appropriate. 

Mottaleb Hossain
Mottaleb Hossain

This is Motaleb Hossain, working on studying, a researcher on English literature and Theology.

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