Buchi Emecheta in her novel The Bride Price (1976) tells the story of the clash between the traditional customs of a small Ibo village in Nigeria and the ever-encroaching influence of Africa's European colonizers, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. The bride price, a fee that is traditionally paid by the prospective husband's family for the prospective wife, is a theme that weaves its way throughout the novel. Emecheta uses this practice of bride price to literally, as well as symbolically, represent women's submission to men in African culture.
Male domination is not the only theme of this book. Emecheta also looks at the caste system in Nigerian culture that discriminates against descendents of slaves. Slavery in Africa consisted of one tribe kidnapping people from another tribe, then holding them captive and forcing them to work. Sometimes slaves were buried alive with their masters when their masters died. Descendents of slaves, although they were eventually freed under colonial rule, were never considered members of their adopted villages no matter how long they lived there, or how successful they became.
The Bride Price, although fictional, is somewhat autobiographical. The book draws on the events that Emecheta witnessed growing up in Nigeria. It is the third book that Emecheta has published, but it is the first one in which Emecheta offers a hint of hope that both the African woman as well as the descendents of slaves might overcome the potentially debilitating restrictions of their culture. Although Emecheta does not overtly criticize the traditional customs of her culture in The Bride Price, her writing has been criticized by male African writers for its negative portrayal of Nigerian customs. Despite this, Emecheta has become one of Africa's best-known women writers, and her books continue to investigate the themes of gender discrimination and the effects of caste that were initiated in The Bride Price.