Marriage is a Private Affair - Four Levels | The Flax-Golden Tales

Chinua Achebe, Nigeria (1930 – 2013)

Marriage is a Private Affair

Literal Comprehension: This suggestive story “Marriage is a Private Affair” is written by famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. In this story, he has described one marriage relation show marriage as a private affair. The subject matter of this story is love and marriage between Nnaemeka and Nene where Nnaemeka is from Ibo tribe and Nene is from another tribe. He did engagement and started to live with at Lagos city. When they were engaged Nene was asking to send the message about their engagement to his father Okeke but Nnaemeka did not do that because he was familiar with his father’s nature and his culture. According to his culture, the son of the Ibo tribe has to marry the girl of their own tribe arranged by father. If the arrangement is done by the father it will be accepted from all the members of that community. If the arrangement is done by sons themselves with the girl of a different tribe, it would make father very angry and creates tension in the family. So, he planned to tell his father when he went home on leave. But he did not tell to Nene that his father had already chosen a girl Ugoye of his own tribe.

Nnaemeka went home on leave and told his father that he could not marry Ugoye because he was engaged to marry with Nene who is a good Christian and teacher in Lagos City whom he loves. After hearing this Okeke became very angry because according to him and his rituals Christian woman should not speak/teach. Then Okeke asked her name and when he knew that she was the girl of other tribe but not of Ibo tribe, he became silent which silent was more dangerous than his angry speech. Okeke tried to persuade his son Nnaemeka not to marry with Nene. But when Okeke was sure that his son would not obey him, he did not speak with his son after ordering to go away from home and gave up as a last. When Nnaemeka went to Lagos, the neighbors came to Okeke to give sympathy about his son’s behavior. Different old people and gentlemen encouraged Okeke to go against his behavior and suggested to check his son with witch doctor by saying his mind is not right. But Okeke denied that idea.

After six months Nnaemeka showed his father’s letter to Nene. Nnaemeka had sent their wedding picture to his father. His father had returned to them by damaging the picture of Nene. Nene sobbed when she found her picture damaged. He consoled her by saying that his father is a good-natured man and that one day all would be right. Nene and Nnaemeka were living a happier and more comfortable life in Lagos. Everybody except Nnaemeka’s father Okeke in Ibo tribe knew about that because Okeke never liked to talk about his son and never let others talk about his son. With a great effort, he was able to forget his son because almost 8 years went by not having any contact between Okeke and his son Nnaemeka. Nene had given birth to two sons within that time. Nene wrote a serious letter to Okeke telling that his two grandsons were enthusiastic/inspiring to see their grandfather. She had requested him in a letter to allow them to see him and also told that she would not come to a village where Nnaemeka would come with grandsons. When Okeke read the letter of Nene, the idea of grandson melted him and he soon realized his mistake not giving an invite to his son and daughter-in-law for eight years into their home. He regretted his behavior. The sky was clouded and started to rain. He could not sleep that night. He saw the vision that two grandsons were waiting outside in the rain asking to come in. tears came in his eyes. Mentally Okeke wanted to invite Nene’s family. So he had a vague fear that he might die before giving them their proper right.

Interpretation: This story “Marriage is a Private Affair” might be trying to tell us that married life becomes happier and joyful if it is done privately and in accordance with personal choice. Along with it, the writer wants to say that if society is superstitious and narrow-minded, it brings us tension and problems. It is not necessary to get married within own culture like Ibo in this story to live a happy married life. As Okeke did not accept his son’s private marriage with Nene, he got 8 years tension, misunderstanding, conflicts and sadness which are the result of narrow mindedness and superstitious belief/traditional belief. Here the writer wants to suggest that we should be careful, qualified and independent then a personal choice of marriage can be the best example of marriage to live happily.

Critical Thinking: Thought the writer’s focus is to show private affair of marriage as the best example of marriage to live with joy and happiness, he has not described anything about the arrange marriage which has its own value too. So, some of the points which are described in this story make me disagree. Here the private marriage life of Nene and Nnaemeka is shown as one of the happier and joyful life. Why did Nene write a letter to Okeke, father-in-law, saying that their two sons want to meet him? Can’t we say that they were not happy? Can a private marriage always create happiness? Presently, we can see that the private affair of marriage is bringing lots of problem in the world rather than an arranged marriage. More events of divorce are occurring in private marriage cases. In such a condition, how can we regard private marriage as the best example? When Okeke could not convince his son Nnaemeka not to marry with Nene, he completely rejected his son. How can a father reject a son due to his misunderstanding of marriage?

Assimilation: After reading this story, I came to know that superstitious and back-warded societies are not only in Nepal, these people are everywhere else. This story made me remember the incident when I wanted to have an inter-caste marriage with my present wife. She belongs to the Newar family and me from Brahman family. We were in a private affair at that time but our both family came to know our relation. As they were superstitious, both families denied our relation saying that we have different culture but we didn’t give up and decided that convincing both families, we would get marry and enjoy the happy life. Finally, we both became independent and decided to get married which was also accepted by both families. Now, everybody is happy seeing us that we are enjoying our private marriage life.

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