Marriage Is a Private Affair

by Chinua Achebe

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In "Marriage Is a Private Affair," compare and contrast the father's first reaction to his son's marrying with his attitude at the end of the story.

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Okeke's initial reaction to his son's wishes is defiant anger, while his attitude at the end of the story is one of regret.

As the story opens, Nnaemeka is confiding in Nene that he dreads telling his father about their love.  He turns out to be right.  The father's first reaction to his son's wishes is not very good.  Okeke is dismissive when his son says that he does not love the girl that his father has picked.  Then, Okeke becomes angry when he finds out that Nene works outside of the house, something that offends his traditionalist construction.  Finally, he becomes irate when he finds out that Nene is not Ibo.   It is at this point that Okeke shuns his son. He refuses to have any contact with his son and his new wife.  Even six months after the wedding, Okeke's letter to his son depicts an angry and resentful reaction:

It amazes me that you could be so unfeeling as to send me your wedding picture. I would have sent it back. But on further thought I decided just to cut off your wife and send it back to you because I have nothing to do with her. How I wish that I had nothing to do with you either. 

At the end of the story, another letter shows Okeke's reaction.  This time, it is from Nene.  After reading it, Okeke displays a different type of reaction.  He realizes that he has held on to his anger for so long that he might have closed out the opportunity to know his grandsons.  The ending of the story shows him filled with regret over his initial defiance.

Intense feeling is displayed in both reactions.  They exist on different ends of the emotional spectrum.  However, Achebe uses both to show what it means to be human being and what it means to embrace one in putting aside the other.

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