Comparison Between Things Fall Apart by Achebe and The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats

Comparison Between Things Fall Apart by Achebe and The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats

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When people and scholars read “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats, many are shocked by the stunning and frightening description of what he perceives will happen during the “second coming”. He describes violent and terrifying images, describes the world he lives in, as well as the judgment it will receive. While the purpose and meaning of Yeats’ poem has never been fully understood, a connection can be made between “The Second Coming”, and a more recent novel, Chinchua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Things Fall Apart is a novel published in 1958 that describes the conflict between tribe of Nigerian people and white missionaries. While there is a distinct contrast in writing style and subject between these two pieces of literature, there is a discernible correlation between them. At the ending of Yeats’ poem, he presents a question: “…And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”. Achebe’s novel in many different ways is a direct response to Yeats’ question.
Before Yeats’ presents his question, he describes a crumbling social structure: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…”Achebe takes the title of his book from this line, comparing the structural collapse of the Nigerian tribe to the collapse of many social structures after the aftermath of World War 1. This is an ironic, almost satirical reference as he contrasts the disorder of the Nigerian tribe due to Western imperialism, against a poem which is referring to the disintegration of many European social systems that lead to conflict. While Achebe has a satirical side to his book in comparison to the poem, he also illustrates the literal meaning of the poem. When the white missionaries ...


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...se in their once-strong social system. The “Second Coming” Yeats’ refers to is also addressed in the book, as Achebe relates the second coming to the arrival of the white missionaries. Through the writing of his book, Achebe is able to express his feelings of unfairness and hatred that he attributes to the Christians that had torn his people apart. Especially toward the Christians, who believe in the “second coming”, he scoffs at their hypocrisy and the corruption they bring. It should be noted that Yeats’ poem has multiple interpretations regarding its meaning, and Achebe’s comparison between them is strictly only based on what Achebe himself believes is the poem’s purpose. Through these two pieces of literature, Achebe is able to accurately describe his opinion of the white missionaries, as well as provide a picture of the conflict that result from their arrival.

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