The title of Things Fall Apart was taken from "The Second Coming," an apocalyptic poem by twentieth century Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Chinebe uses the quote from the poem containing the phrase in the epigraph to his novel:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, -
Yeats's poem evoked fears that the foundations of Western civilization were being destroyed, and his poem was an expression of uncertainty and foreboding about what might replace them. Similarly, Things Fall Apart is fundamentally about the destruction of Ibo culture by the forces of British colonialism. So the title references the disintegration, or at least the rapid transformation, of Ibo society, especially the primacy of kinship and clan, under the weight of European Christian influences.