“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”-Explain

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The Second Coming is a notable literary work by William Butler Yeats. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of The Second Coming.


Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The lines “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” are from the poem “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats. This poem was written after World War I, a turbulent historical period. These lines are often mentioned as one of modern poetry’s most famous and frequently quoted.

Yeats conveys a profound sense of chaos, disintegration, and societal breakdown in these lines. Let’s break down the meaning:

“Things fall apart” – This phrase indicates a fundamental breakdown or collapse of order and stability. It can be deciphered on multiple levels, from personal to societal. It signifies the disruption of established norms and systems.

“The center cannot hold” – This line reveals a loss of balance and cohesion. The ‘center’ means the core or foundation of society, and when it cannot ‘hold,’ it implies a loss of control and stability. Institutions, values, and beliefs that once held society together are crumbling.

“Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” – Yeats introduces the idea of anarchy. It is the absence of government and law. “Mere” indicates that this anarchy is a potential threat and a reality set free. The phrase “upon the world” highlights the global scale of this chaos.

In termination, we can say that these lines reflect Yeats’ despair and foreboding about the state of the world in the aftermath of World War I. He believed that the horrors of the war had shaken the foundations of civilization, leading to a period of upheaval and disorder. The image painted is one of a world spiralling into chaos with no clear path to restoration.