The Igbo culture is flexible and continuous; its laws are made by men and are not solid and permanent. Change is implicit in oral culture. Igbos have been able to retain their core beliefs and behavior systems for 5000 years because of the flexibility and adaptability of their culture. Yeats says things collapse from within before they are overwhelmed by things from without- Umuofia's collapse is its loss of faith, and that is also its strength, it's refusal to fight. But this self-destruction, this bending of societal codes is what keeps the culture from being annihilated. One fundamental question that occurs while trying to figure out how Yeats fits into an understanding of this book is whether or not things really do fall apart. From Okonkwo's point of view they certainly do, but Okonkwo's is not the only point of view in the book. Do things fall apart for the rest of the Umuofia tribes, and for the Ibo people, or does their center still hold, and it is just a center that they never shared with Okonkwo? It is important to look at the construction of the novel and the way it ties in with Yeatsian theory on the rise and fall of civilizations, and on personal tragedy.
The Yeatsian vision of Western history is of a world of "alternating civilizations, each giving way to one another through its inability to contain all human impulses within the enclosed scheme of value and being replaced by all that is overlooked and undervalued"(Wright 80). A fundamental principle of Yeats' vision is that things must "collapse from within before they are overwhelmed from without" (Wright 79). The falcon must lose the connection with the falconer before the center begins to l...
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...escapeÉHe wiped his machete on the ground and went away" (205). An enduring aspect of the center of the Igbo people is the ability of that center to change and adapt. In an unchanging time, OkonkwoÕs inflexible will guaranteed his success as a clansman of the Igbo, a culture remarkable for its flexibility, but when the culture had to change to prosper, Okonkwo lost his center, and became a truly tragic figure.
Kartennar, Neil ten. "How the Center is Made to Hold in Things Fall Apart." English Studies in Canada. Downsview, Ont. University of Toronto Press. 1975
Simola, Raisa. "World Views in Chinua AchebeÕs Works." Frankfurt am Main: New York. 1995.
Wright, Derek. "Things Standing Together: A Retrospective on Things Fall Apart." Heinemann. Oxford; 1990.
Chinua Achebe: A Celebration. Ed. Holst, Peterson. Rutherford.
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