The Concepts of Tradition and Modernity in the Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta.

Topics: Slavery, Marriage, Buchi Emecheta Pages: 9 (3529 words) Published: March 19, 2013
The concepts of tradition and modernity in The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta.


The concept of tradition versus modernity has been widely explored in the novel entitled Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta. Every aspect including the setting of the novel, the tribal community that exists, the characters, the lifestyle which the community adopted and the values that each characters hold reflects the existence and also the confrontation between tradition and modernity. In this novel, the author has shown how modernity and its values try to seep into the community of Ibuza, a place where tradition and customs are strongly uphold by its residents. During the period from 1850 to 1960, Nigeria has been colonized by the British power and just like any other colonizers, the British asserted their dominance in the country through many mediums. It is also through this colonization that modernity was brought to the country. One of the changes that have been made was abolishing the slavery system which has been practised widely in the country. Slavery has been practiced in Nigeria for more than 300 years since the beginning of the 15th century and was then known as the “Slave Coast”. Apart from this, the colonial power has also made it a point to bring change to the country by introducing Christianity to the people and also using education in the excuse of “moulding” them to become more civilized and to cultivate a more proper way of thinking. In actual, education was used as a tool by the British to oppress the people of Nigeria and by subjecting them into accepting these foreign values. In relation to this, the Nigerians have yet to be able to escape from the dominating presence of the British power even after the nation has achieved independence. As a consequence, the community of Nigeria is exposed to the modernity brought upon by the colonial power and thus making them vulnerable to confront with these changes. In a way, the British Colonial Heritage represents modernity and change whilst the Nigerian livelihood was seen as a representation of tradition and customs. Thus, when the two of this concept coincide with one another in a community, conflict arises and one is forced to make a choice or else face the possible implications that might take place especially when issues concerning traditional values comes into the picture. In the “Bride Price”, the author, Buchi Emecheta, a novelist whose themes includes child slavery, female independence, motherhood and freedom, portrays to her readers about the clash between the endlessness of the tradition and values practiced by a small community in the Ibo village and the influences of the colonial powers as seen through the eyes of the main protagonist, Akunna. Through this novel also, readers are able to see how the women characters’ life are enveloped by patriarchy and how these women are trapped in the intricate life of the Ibuza tradition. Apart from that, the contradiction between tradition and modernity can also be seen as importance are placed on the community rather than the private self. And in relation to this, women need to give in or else there will be chaos and they will have to face the implications like how Akunna did. Hence, this paper intends to explore of how tradition and modernity are represented together with the instances and implications of tradition clashing with modernity.


Tradition as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)”. The concept of tradition has been widely represented in this novel through many aspects. The title itself, “The Bride Price” represents a fee that is traditionally paid by the prospective husband’s family to the future wife-to-be. The writer of this novel uses this concept of the bride price to symbolize women’s submission to men and also to depict the traditional custom practiced by the...
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