Marriage Is a Private Affair

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Summary/Paraphrase Chinua Achebe – “Marriage is a Private Affair”

Setting – the action of this story takes place in two locations
Lagos, Nigeria – a modern city
An Igbo village in Nigeria

Characters –
Nene – fiancée and later the wife of Naemeka; she is from the Ibibio tribe. She has been educated at the university and is a school teacher. She is a modern young Nigerian woman who wants to be accepted by her husband’s father. Naemeka – young Nigerian man from the Igbo tribe who has moved to the city of Lagos and has fallen in love with Nene. He realizes that his father will not approve of his marriage but he goes ahead and marries the woman he loves. Okeke – Naemake’s father; very religious; a rule follower; believes in traditional view that marriages should be arranged by the families, that people should never marry outside of their own tribe. He is the most dynamic character in the story and undergoes the greatest change when he feels remorse for rejecting his daughter in law and plans to make it up to her as soon as possible at the end of the story.

Ugoye Nweke – woman that Naemeka’s father has arranged for him to marry

Plot summary
Exposition
A young man from an Igbo village meets a young Ibibio woman in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. They have fallen in love and intend to marry. The young woman wants the young man to send a letter to his father telling him of their engagement. The young man is hesitant because he knows his father has already arranged for him to marry a young Igbo woman from his village, in accordance with traditional customs. Instead, he goes home to the village to inform his father in person.

Rising Action
External conflict
Person against person – son and father oppose each other in deciding whom the son will marry. Father refuses to acknowledge the young woman that his son loves. He cuts her picture out of the wedding photo and sends it back to them. Person against society – initially, the whole village agrees with the father that marrying outside of one’s tribe is dangerous, that sons should not arrange their own marriages, and the people from the village who visit the city treat the young wife overly politely. Internal conflict – the father clings to his opinion and refuses to forgive his son or to acknowledge his daughter in law. He prays for his son’s safety in the unwise marriage.

The father refuses to allow his son to visit and never visits them, for eight years. Even though the villagers who have met Nene in the city have come to accept and think well of her, they are scared to even mention her to the father. For years, the angry, stubborn father refuses to change.

Climax – the father receives a letter from Naemeka, begging him to accept a visit from her son and two grandsons; she says she will stay away in the city if he will only let the grandsons come visit him. This is the turning point in the story.

Resolution – the father realizes that the time for change has come. A strong storm, the first of the year, brings rain to the land at the same time as he is reading the letter and changing his heart. The hard dry unforgiving father changes and the sudden severe weather symbolizes the severe change in his opinion, just as the hard earth is softened and refreshed by the rain, his stubborn feelings have been softened by his daughter in laws concern and love for her children and her wish for them to meet their grandfather. The story ends with the father feeling great sorrow over his actions (“remorse”), and hoping that he can live long enough to make amends to his son and daughter –in-law and their family.

Themes (author’s message) of the story –
Conflict between traditional and modern ways
Need for understanding in a family
The price of stubbornness – hurts the stubborn person and the people he is ignoring.

Summary/Paraphrase Chinua Achebe – “Marriage is a Private Affair”

Setting – the action of this story...
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