In Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe begins the novel with an epigraph, a poem extract, from “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats. This epigraph foreshadows what is yet to come. This extract indicates there is a “center” that cannot hold which results in chaos and a“falcon” is lost and unable to return to its “falconer.” In this essay I argue that the center of the novel is the Igbo society and religion and the falcon symbolizes the youthful generation of Igbo people and the falconer represents the wise and experienced elders of the clan. The elders, or the falconer, are calling the juvenile falcon to pass down the Igbo culture to them, but the falcon is unable to return to inherit the culture because outside influences emanate. In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe begins the novel with an epigraph, a poem extract, from “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats. This epigraph foreshadows what is yet to come. This extract indicates there is a “center” that cannot hold which results in chaos and a“falcon” is lost and unable to return to its “falconer.” In this essay I argue that the center of the novel is the Igbo society and religion and the falcon symbolizes the youthful generation of Igbo people and the falconer represents the wise and experienced elders of the clan. The elders, or the falconer, are calling the juvenile falcon to pass down the Igbo culture to them, but the falcon is unable to return to inherit the culture because outside influences emanate. The “center”, mentioned in W.B. Yeats’ poem in the beginning of the novel, is the Igbo society, culture, and religion which ties all the clansmen in the community together. Conflict in this novel revolves around the Igbo culture and protecting its sacred traditions. Traditions, ceremonies, and celebrations corrals the Igbo community together to share moments with fellow clansmen. Achebe mentions a particular celebration in the book called The Feast of the New Yams. “The Feast of the New Yams was held every year before the harvest began, to honor the earth goddess and the ancestral spirits of the clan... The New Yam festival was thus an occasion of joy throughout Umuofia”(37). This exemplifies an annual celebratory occasion that is an opportunity for all in Umuofia to praise their gods as a unified community.The epigraph describes a falcon who’s lost and cannot return to the falconer. The falcon symbolizes the new and future generations of the Igbo people and the falconer symbolizes the elders of the clan. The falconer is held responsible for keeping and training its falcon to comply with its directions. The elders are training and pushing the young generation to eternally embrace the Igbo culture and religion like their ancestors have. In attempt to fulfill this duty, one of the oldest member of the umunna confronts a group of people. “I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship...An abominable religion has settled among you. A man can now leave his father and his brothers. He can curse the gods of his father’s and his ancestors, like a hunters dog that suddenly goes mad and turns on his master. I fear for you. I fear for the clan”(167). This elder expresses his concern for the youthful generations future and censure against how the new religion procures sons away from their families. He is referring to Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, who abandoned his family and converted to Christianity. Nwoye personifies the falcon in the epigraph because he leads himself astray from the Igbo religion he was trained to practice due to his confusion about past events such as Ikemefuna’s death. Nwoye could not hear his falconer because the new religion the missionaries introduced intruded his life. The elder uses Nwoye’s departure as an ominous warning to the other clansmen and prevent them from making the same mistake. The center, Igbo religion and culture, cannot hold and falls apart due to the arrival of the missionaries. “They had built their church there, won a handful of converts and were already sending evangelists to the surrounding towns villages”(143). The sudden colonization of the missionaries and departure of clansmen weakens the clan making them vulnerable to being dominated by a stronger force. When the missionaries grow stronger in number, they take advantage of the foundation of trust they built to establish systems of their own such as a new judicial system. As soon as the missionaries gain power and respect by expanding the Christian community, they utilize their power to acquire what they desire. “The white man is very clever...he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart”(176). The missionaries gradually break down the pillars that support the Igbo culture and society until it crumbles and falls apart only to leave something unrecognizable. Achebe utilizes the epigraph to help readers foresee the predicaments in the novel and initiate the reader’s curiosity. The center of the book is the Igbo culture and society which the missionaries corrode until it falls apart. He uses the falcon and falconer from the epigraph to signify character’s in the book and describe the characters situation. The falcon has become isolated from the falconers guidance and has the opportunity to defy the customs it was trained to follow. The falcon has this opportunity because of the presence of a new contrasting influencer.