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The actual title is taken from W.B. Yeats' poem "The Second Coming." The poem refers to the increasing pressure to maintain a stable situation (see poem for details). The novel's title refers to the increasing pressure on the Umuofian culture and inhabitants of the villages represented in the novel to hold onto their way of life as the Christian missionaries infiltrate their world. "The center cannot hold and things fall apart." This line from the poem reflects Okonkwo's grasp on his own life, family and power in his community and it's slow slippage away from him.
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