White men do not respect the traditions of the Igbo, which they believe to be savage, crude, and ultimately backward. White men, especially missionaries are successful in persuading many of the Igbo of the superiority of Western culture, which leads to internal conflict that often splits families. This clash of cultures is one of the predominant themes in the book, and scholars generally agree that the book accuarately portrays the very difficult choices encountered by African peoples in the face of the new imperialism. Literary scholar Eustace Palmer points out that Achebe means to suggest that change will destroy those who are intransigent:
while deploring the imperialists' brutality and condescension, [Achebe] seems to suggest that change is inevitable and wise men ... reconcile themselves to accommodating change. It is the diehards ... who resist and are destroyed in the process.
Those who are able to incorporate these changes will be successful, and perhaps even maintain some of their customs and traditions. In many ways, the book itself represents this observation. It is one of the first retellings of African folk tradition in the form of a Western novel. Achebe himself described the book as "an act of atonement with my past," a past that seems increasingly distant as a result of rampant Westernization.