William Butler Yeats wrote his poem "The Second Coming" long before Chinua
Achebe first published his book, "Things Fall Apart". Yet, the two are so entertwined that
one could not have the influence it does on the world today without the other. The line
taunts our security in the world with "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold." These
words are almost over powerfully true in the novel about a Nigerian tribe.
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre"... starts the poem, and the story, off
spiritually. The gyre is the continuation of life; how things are constantly changing and
moving. Okonkwo's tribe believed in life continuing after death, and that our spirit may be
reborn. The obanje is and example of this cycle. The obanje is the spirit of a child who
will die after birth, only to leap back into the womb of its mother to torment her with its
death again when it is reborn. Though nor pleasant, it is a blatant statement on the cycle of
life.
"The falcon cannot hear the falconer" shows an impending trouble. It foreshadows
the second coming in the poem, as it does the coming of something horrible in the novel.
The followers cannot hear their leaders anymore. Nwoye failed to ever hear his father's
messages about male power, war, and religion, thus just waiting for a way out of his
relationship with Okonkwo. The new religion that eventually comes offers this out.
"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold" is the very line Achebe chose to use as
the title of his novel. It is painfully appropriate, because there is little in the book that
holds together. Both individual lives and a culture crumble under a new influential power,
called Christianity. Things can never hold as they were, they have to change and "fall
apart" in order for new life to come in. It is the natural way of the earth. Okonkwo's world
could not hold forever; change was inevitable. He looses his family and homeland over
this. Even his daughter's world is forced to stop when her father asks her not to marry.
Their culture is being disintegrated by the acid of a new religion.
"Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world," flippantly wrote Yeats. It would seem
that anarchy, the loss of all rule in a society, is more than a "mere" occasion. It certainty
was not for Okonkwo's village. There are a handful of people who try to enforce the old
rules, but few people listen to them or even care after a while. A sort of anarchy ensues
where families are being torn apart and the old rules don't apply anymore. People begin to
go where they are accepted, completely omitting all old rule from their psyche.
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed," is an obvious symbol of the blood letting that
starts when the Christians move in. Both sides start to kill the other side. The natives kill
an "albino" who was riding a "metal horse". The Christians kill a man by hanging. The
blood begins to flow.
"...And everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;" comments on the
killings that are fatal to any innocence left in Umuofia. A religious innocence accompanies
all ceremonies with the egwugwu. When the Christian missionaries arrived and started
killing, Umuofia learns of a "civilized" world, and the "true" God that they worship. Any
integrity left is then distorted.
"The best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity" The
most honored men in Umuofia lacked any confidence in themselves to rid of the
missionaries. Intensity fills only those "outcasts" in the group; unfortunately, the intensity
is for the new religion, not getting rid of it.
"Surely some revelation is at hand" is a flagrant biblical allusion. Revelation in the
bible speaks of the end of the world, indicating that some fatal event is close at hand for
the people of Umuofia. The next line, "Surely the second coming is at hand," likewise
shows that tribal life may soon be over. It is the end of life as we know it.
"Hardly those words out/When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi/Troubles my
sight" are, again, signs of impending doom upon the village. They were warned that by
killing