What is the significance of the conflict between tribal tradition and individual freedom brought out in the short story?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the significance of the conflict that is presented enables Achebe to delve into the nature of the modern setting in light of traditional divisions.  With the conclusion of the story, Achebe seems to conclude that "the conflict between the traditional and the modern has its base in the general beliefs which underlie the former."  The opening of the story brings out clearly that the expectations of the father, representative of tribal tradition, does not agree with the son's decision to marry Nene.  While Nnaemeka feels bad about his father's opposition, it is clear that he is not going to be held hostage by it.  It is here where Achebe's conclusion that the modern will win out if the tribal or traditional seek to engage in a type of conflict between the individual freedom intrinsic to the modern setting.  Achebe is astute in presenting the dilemma in the manner he does in the story.  It is one in which individual freedom feels challenge from the beliefs of the tradition, but one in which the tribal thinking has little chance to overwhelm.  It is also noteworthy to invoke the setting of the story.  Achebe establishes the young couple in Lagos, and in the process brings out the idea that as urbanization increases, it helps to substantiate the presence of individual freedom over the force of tribal tradition, which must seek to acclimate itself to the modern construction of subjective autonomy.  It is in this where the ending proves to be profound as Nnaemeka's father is overcome with foreboding and grief, the end results of the collision between tribal tradition and individual freedom.


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