The Second Coming & Things Fall Apart

Posted on: October 5, 2008

The Second Coming of Christ

The Second Coming of Christ

What is the meaning of the phrase “Things Fall Apart” within Yeats’ poem?

I think the phrase “Things Fall Apart” means that people begi to fight with each other and thus are no more united. When two opposing groups clash, there is no more cooperation among people to live together. Instead, violence and selfish minds take over the world and divide the union. Violence usually results in the collapse of law, belief and the basis on which the organization stands upon. The later part of the poem shows that there is a darkness approaching to create instability, which will result in things falling apart.
What does the Second Coming refer to in general?
I didn’t really know about Christian beliefs about Christ, so I had no idea what the Second Coming was. Through some research, I found out the Second Coming refers to the return of Christ at the end of the world. Christians believe that the Bible proves the promise of Jesus to come back to save the believers/Christians from the evil. There are some quotes from the Bible that people think are the proofs of the Second Coming.
What does the Second Coming refer to in Yeats’ poem?
I think Yeats expanded the meaning of Second Coming from the return of Christ on doomsday to a mean a big conflict among people. This big conflict among the ‘civilized West’ and the ‘uncivilized savages’ means that darkness is coming to seize the world. This conflict could mean World War I, because this was one of the major conflicts among people that Yeats had gone through. It brought bloodshed and chaos, which resembles the doomsday that the Christ is supposed to come. We can infer from the last 5 lines of the poem that Yeats used the idea of Second Coming of Jesus in the Bible. The last 5 lines depict a beast threatening Bethlehem, which is the birth place of Jesus. This beast is also mentioned in the Bible as the threatening creature that appears on the doomsday.

As you read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, note how the novel both takes up and changes Yeats’ version of the Second Coming. Who or what in the novel represents a “rough beast” that “slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

     In the novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe expressed the conflict between African natives (Umuofians) and the Western missionaries using Yeats’ version of the Second Coming. As the title Things Fall Apart reflects, Achebe takes up the idea of the fall of order, law and tradition expressed in Yeats’ poem. He shows the process of Umuofian people dividing among themselves because of new religious belief introduced by the white missionaries. In the end, Umuofians lose order and got into conflicts leading to death of many people. These conflicts are similar to those in Yeats’ poem; the two forces (gyres) destructing one another. 
     Although the concept of conflict in the novel and the poem is similar, there is one big difference between the two writings. In Yeats’ poem, those who are not Christians are considered the evil of the world, or the rough beast the slouches towards Bethlehem to be born. We could infer this because Bethlehem is a holy place where Jesus was born, and the poem describes the beast as a figure threatening the holy place. Contrasting to the poem, the novel depicts Christian missionaries as the antagonists who ruin innocent native people in Africa. In other words, forceful missionaries are the rough beast who threatened the innocent village in Nigeria.


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  • Alice: Very insightful. I shall take your advice :]
  • Mr WordPress: Hi, this is a comment.To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts' comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.


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