Notes for English literature students
For All the students of M.A English
''Things Fall Apart''
''Title of Things Fall Apart''
The title of Achebe's novel ''Things Fall Apart'' owes to William Butler Yeats'1921 ''visionary''poem ,''The Second Coming''.Yeats speaks of the break-down of the ''old'' order and its displacement by a ''new'' order that rouses mixed feelings of revulsion and fascination in him.So the title is a kind of tribute to Yeats' mysticism.
''Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon can not hear the falconer
Things Fall Apart;the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world''.
Achebe would have most carefully chosen both the epigraph and title as his novel,is too about a forcible break-up of an older and settled order.Achebe is preoccupied with things falling apart,the break-down of the ''old'' order under the relentless onslaught of the ''new'' order.
The significance of a title increases when it hints at the theme of the book.The very title''Things Fall Apart'',highlights the process of disintegration of Ibo culture and society.Achebe looks back at his Ibo society specifically at the period the white man broke into it and''mere anarchy''loosed upon the world of Umuofia.
The major theme of the novel is that British colonoization and the conversation to christianity of tribal people has destroyed an intricate and old pattern of life in Africa.Dealing with the theme of chaos and disruption,Achebe's selection of title is not only proper,suggestive and accurate but a true reflection and the mirror to its theme.
Things Fall Apart,is about a clan which once thought like one,spoke like one,shared a common awareness and acted like one.The white man came and his coming broke this unity.As Obierika says,
''The white man is very clever.He came quitely wand peaceably with his religion.....Now he has won our brothers,and our clan can no longer act like one''.
Achebe cooly analyses the ways of invaders that cause disintegration and so,ultimately things fall apart.
Their very first tool is force.To avert their tragedy the Abame people kill the white man.A military against Abame follows.During this retaliation the village is wiped out as Obierika asserts,
''Everybody is killed,except the old and the sick who were at home and a handful of men and women whose chi were wide awake...Even the sacred fish in their mysterious lake have fled and the lake has turned the colour of blood''.
This fate of Abame stopes Mbanta people to do any act and consequently things became to fall apart at random.
The whiteman introduced christianity which is all embracing.Any human being is acceptable even the Osu,the outcast clansman became converted.At first it is the efulefu and osu only.Moreover,new religion gives answer to some of the vague questions that have hitherto haunted some people.Thus Nwoye feels he has the answer to the death of Ikemefuna and the casting away of twins that cry in the bush until they die.In this way,the new religion gains ground and things fall apart instantly.
Moreover,the religion brings with itself a strong government and peaceful trade.The people become more prosperous.As Achebe says in the course of his narrative.
''The white man had indeed brought a lunatic religion,but he had also built a trading store and for the first time palm-oil and kernel became the things of great price,and much money flowed into Umofia''.
The people prefer having the lucrative commerce to pointlessly attacking the whiteman and his religion.By and by they lost their devotion against invaders and consequently things fall apart.
Thus the title of the novel is like the signboard of a shop.Just as a signboard indicates the the goods that are sold in the shop,so the suggested title of novel gives a clear indication as to the contents,theme,and symbolism of the novel.Achebe titles like Joseph Conrad's are always well-chosen and respond to his thematic ideas as we see his titles like ''No Longer At Ease'',''Arrow of God and Burning Grass''.
As the history based upon stories and the great tragedies are well named after the central figure[the kings or the tragic hero] e.g ''Oedipus Rex''.Similarly the title for the German edition of TFA is Okonkwo.This is an apt recognition of Okonkwo's role.The main intention of the title may therefore be to emphasize that this novel tells Okonkwo's story.And this emphasis is renowned time and again at its most credible and crucial moments in the story.
Gradually,that people lost their unity.Obierika's remark is very significant and similar to the title:
''He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart''.
And these things that held these people together are their local traditions,culture,religion of various gods and godesses,laws and a sense of belonging.
However it is Achebe's task in TFA to objectively and dispassionately access the various reasons for the break-up of that order__an older order and settled way of life.He analyses the inflexibilities within the Igbo social formation that ultimately led to wholesome disaster.
Some of these reasons are the rigid social structure which isolates the Osu,demarcation between a man's and a woman's role,the overconfidence of the tribal people in their attitude towards the ''new'' religion and the lack of unity.These drawbacks of their society lead to things fall apart.
Things Fall Apart opens at the height of Okonkwo's fame which he wins through ''Solid personal achievements'' and ends with his tragic death.The whole story revolves around Okonkwo.But this does not mean that the story is essentially about Okonkwo.It is about whole clan,a whole civilization.It is not the tragedy of a single man but of whole community of Umuofia.So there is no doubt about the appropriateness of the title,Things Fall Apart.
To conclude,the title of the book,Things Fall Apart is very revealing when Achebe says, things fall apart he means that there is disintegration,the breaking into pieces of a thing hitherto intact__the social pattern of Ibos.
With the inroads of new European ideas into the Tgbo Society.The old traditional pattern of society begins to flater,things began to fall apart,traditional beliefs,old practices,beliefs in the earth godesses and the ancestral spirits,all these begin to recieve assaults in the hands of white people and society begins to break into pieces with opposing views and thus the ''Centre cannot hold''.All this explains the reason for Chinua Achebe's choice of the title___''Things Fall Apart''.