Change vs. Tradition
Important themes in Things Fall Apart include the struggle between change and tradition:
Interpretation #1: The following is a hypothetical conversation between Nwoye and a tribal elder:
Nwoye: I don't agree with some of these traditions.
Tribal Elder: My dad killed twins, drank palm wine, talked to egwuwu, opressed women, and prayed to Agbala. His dad killed twins, drank palm wine, talked to egwuwu, opressed women, and prayed to Agbala. I kill twins, drink palm wine, talk to egwuwu, opress women, and pray to Agbala. Now get out before I beat you.
The Ibo need to scrap their traditions, implement national health care, start a dialogue with enemy spirits who terrorize them, rewrite their laws, and collect all their yams and divide them equally at the end of the harvest so everybody will be equal.
Confronted with change, individual members of Ibo society react differently. Those who stand to gain from change--the outcasts, titleless, and oppressed--welcome it. Those who have risen to positions of authority by following the old way--Okonkwo, for example--resist change. The battle between the old and the new is highlighted by the arrival of Christian missionaries and colonial authority. Okonkwo and Obierika recognize that many of their clansmen adopt the new ways. Obierika realizes resistance is futile. Okonkwo chops the head off a colonial messenger, something the old tribe would have found heroic, but something the new tribe does not endorse.