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The crux of the plot in Achebe's work is the conflict between how Okeke believes Nnaemeka should act and how Nnaemeka actually does act. It is here where the conflict between tradition and progress is evident. Okeke believes that his son should adhere to the cultural wishes and the familial wishes in marriage. He believes that marriage is a tradition- bound institution in which honor and compliance with the wishes of the elders is of the utmost in importance. While Nnaemeka does recognize that his love and eventual marriage to Nene is going to cause problems, his actions indicate that he is of the mindset that marriage should be entered out of love for the other person. When Okeke presents his choice for Nnaemeka's bride, the response of he not being in love with her represents this conflict. It is here where the collision is most evident.
Okeke continues with his fervent defense of tradition to a point where he rejects his son and his daughter in- law. The ending, though, points to how Achebe views the beliefs of people like Okeke. In the final analysis, Okeke can cling to tradition. He can believe in the notion that tradition must be adhered to and followed. Yet, when it becomes evident that Nnaemeka is not going to respect this and rather embrace modernity, Okeke is left alone. The letter from Nene in which Okeke realizes he is a grandfather and his son is a father is a moment in which this becomes clear. The fears that Okeke experiences are one in which Achebe has made clear that the clinging to tradition at the expense of isolating loved ones can only foster loneliness and a sense of being forlorn. Okeke races against this in the end, recognizing that he has lost time and wishes to not lose any more of it. The conflict between traditional and modern views are thus shown to be a futile one if individuals lose connection and sacrifice belief in one another as a result.
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