Essay Type: Analysis Criteria: Compare/contrast the similar concerns that Yeats and Achebe reflect in “The Second Coming” and Things Fall Apart. Analyze their techniques that
illuminate the vivid reality they desire readers to consider. Discuss how this reality might mirror society today.
In the novels, “The Second Coming,” by William Butler Yeats and “Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe, the authors discuss their work where they believe that the “centre cannot hold.” This statement means that if one were to go far from the “centre” of an idea, belief or principle, the person themselves and society
included would fall apart because of how the widening gyre cannot keep its hold together. Outside factors may also create an influence on the said “centre,” however, the people who decide to reject the idea, belief, or principle, are also risking to hurt not only that “centre” but also themselves in the process.
Yeats and Achebe both are similar and different from this concept where it plays a significant effect on society.
Achebe and Yeats are both similar as they agree that after an act of destruction, the people usually rely on faith, such as God, to save humanity.
For instance, in Things Fall Apart, the people were looking forward to the locusts as a source of food since the crops couldn’t be harvested as it metaphorically states “Everyone was now about, talking excitedly and praying that the locusts should camp in Umuofia for the night” (Achebe). The locusts come and “save the day” in the beginning but later, the destruction worsens, and the locusts are the signifiers of the end of the days. In the Second Coming, Yeats uses an anaphora statement, “Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand” (Yeats). The people here are waiting for Jesus Christ to come to their aid after the destruction of humanity. The people are certain that if Jesus Christ comes, it will be the end of evil.
Both Achebe and Yeats have a very similar theory where if a person or a group of people cannot recover from an act of destruction, they will turn to faith to pull them out of the catastrophe. These two author’s idea of destruction, relate to the concept of the “centre cannot hold” as the people go away from the center, destruction occurs where society falls apart and aspires for someone or something to happen to hold the “centre” again. Both of the authors do differ from each other where Achebe believes in his characters that they shouldn’t turn to different religions, no matter what, to restore anarchy.
When the main character Okonkwo discovers his son has converted to Christianity and is a messenger, Okonkwo becomes furious where he kills his son.
When Okonkwo saw his son, he reacted as such, “He sprang to his feet as soon as he saw who it was. He confronted the head messenger, trembling with hate, unable to utter a word. In that brief moment, the world seemed to stand still, waiting. There was utter silence” (Achebe). The use of imagery here illustrates how big of a consequence, this is for Okonkwo's son to convert, where both of them have the attention of the world. On the other hand, Yeats doesn’t have a common message of converting to a different religion. For instance, Yeats metaphorically states that “A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it.” Yeats uses the Sphinx as a symbol where it has an inhumane or blank expression towards the people who are waiting for Christ to come. Therefore, Achebe and Yeats are both similar and different in how they interpret their views of how the “centre cannot hold.”
In today’s society, the idea of where the “centre cannot hold” can apply to the Pidgin language in Hawaii. The language is now deteriorating as the people feel ashamed of speaking it in public. The public criticizes the language and argues that the language should be replaced with English. This argument leads to the thought of the people who speak this language to reject speaking it and stop teaching the language to the children, to conform to society’s demands. The real world problem here leads to the idea of the “centre cannot hold” again because the people are choosing to refuse this language as a part of their culture to the point where it will cease to exist. This creates a huge impact on the people who are surrounded by the culture and creates a downfall. However, the idea of the “centre cannot hold” is also different from today's society.
For instance, society praises individuals who are different, change, and rebel. New philosophical and technological ideas are contributing to cultural change which is being accepted today. It can even be argued that society is more judgmental, where one should be allowed to make their own decisions, as long as they are not hurting anyone else.
Overall, Yeats and Achebe both have a similar point of view on how the “centre cannot hold.” Society today supports both change and no change by trying to go down a route that best helps them survive and stay humble within themselves. The choice that people make to stay true to their idea, belief or principle reflects back to the gyre, where it can either widen and lose its “hold,” while it can also stay narrow and continue spinning.
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