Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart takes both its title and several of its key themes from Yeats' poem The Second Coming. The novel's title comes from the line, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold", which as many of you have noted here and in class is a comment on the nature of empire. As we said, history shows that there comes a point when all empires, every one from the Roman Empire, to Napoleon's conquests, to the British Empire, spin out of control. The lines "the falcon cannot hear the falconer" speak to how the mother empire can lose control of her children colonies. Things Fall Apart is the story of intense native tribal drama which is impossible for an British imperialist to understand. An imperial power may impose its way of life on the culture it colonizes, but it can never fully overwhelm or erase the pre-existing societal structure and customs, a fact that ultimately contributes to the empire's downfall. One quote I remember from the novel is the title a British man had chosen to document the deep-rooted tribal struggles of the novel: "The Pacification of the Tribes of the Lower Niger". One fundamental misunderstanding all empires have is that one culture can absorb another, something that is impossible. So what kind of "rough beast" will come of this flawed imperialist mentality?

No comments:

Post a Comment