Discuss the role of prejudice in the effectiveness of "Marriage is a Private Affair."

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

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Nene overcoming prejudice is an element that enhances the effectiveness of "Marriage is a Private Affair."

Nene confronts prejudice from different people in the short story.  One instance is when she has to deal with the prejudicial attitudes of the Ibo women in Lagos.  When they meet her, Achebe suggests these women made her feel as if "she was not one of them."  This represents an attitude of subtle discrimination, a type of behavior that displayed how Nene was perceived to be an outsider.  Achebe shows that Nene overcomes this in doing her job and not dwelling on such a reality. The women end up accepting her once it is clear that she is as effective, if not more, than they are.

The ability to overcome prejudicial attitudes is also evident in how Nene addresses her father in law.  Okeke is prejudiced against Nene because she is not Ibo, she works, and she is not his choice for Nnaemeka.  The father in law demonstrates prejudice in how he refuses to acknowledge his son's choice for a wife.  This is brutally demonstrated in how he cuts her head out of a photograph.  Nene overcomes this with her letter to her father in law.  It shows a willingness to forge relationships between her children and him while not sacrificing her dignity.  She will not meet him, but she implored him to meet his son and grandsons.  By taking the high road where Okeke's prejudice is concerned, Nene overcomes it.  She does so because her actions make her father in law understand the folly of his prejudicial ways.  Whether with the women in Lagosor or her father in law, Nene shows how individuals can overcome prejudicial attitudes through dignified resolve and enhances the success of Achebe's short story.

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