In "Marriage is a Private Affair," how do the Ibo women in Lagos treat Nene?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Initially, the women in Lagos distance themselves from Nene. 

Part of what makes Achebe's story so effective is that it shows how good people can still harbor values that divide others from them.  Nnaemeka's father, Okeke, is not a bad man.  However, his embrace of supposed orthodox values hurts Nene.  In much the same, way the Ibo women in Lagos initially treat Nene with a sense of distance.  Their reaction to her is rooted in the conditions through which she marries Nnaemeka. Nene is not part of the Ibo tribe. Along with the fact that most people know that Okeke refused to approve the marriage and won't even acknowledge her, the Ibo women in Lagos view Nene with a sense of coldness. They don't outwardly disrespect her. However, they understand that those who do not follow the established or "traditional path" are to be viewed with a specific type of reserve. Achebe makes it clear that stand-offishness is what drives their treatment. He writes that they showed "such excessive deference" to her to separate themselves from her. They treated her as an outsider, primarily because they did not see her as one of their own.  

Achebe writes that they "grudgingly began to admit that she kept her home much better than most of them." She wears them down. Just as Nene is able to invert the power balance with her father-in-law, Nene proves skilled at being able to do the same to the Ibo women in Lagos.

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Marriage Is a Private Affair

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