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Analysis

What’s Up With the Title?

From its very title, Things Fall Apart foreshadows the tragedy which the novel depicts. We don’t mean to be downers, but can a book about things falling apart really have a happy ending? The novel documents the falling apart of the Igbo tribe due to the coming of the Christian missionaries and the rule of the English government.

The only point in the book in which the title is referenced is Chapter Twenty, when the main character, Okonkwo, and his friend, Obierika, are discussing the invasion of white men into their community. Obierika says, “The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now 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.” This passage clearly ties the destruction of the Igbo people’s way of life to sneaky, divisive action on the part of European missionaries and imperialists.

The phrase “things fall apart” is from a poem by W.B Yeats, which Achebe quotes more extensively in the epigraph (see “What’s Up With the Epigraph?” for more detail).

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