Marriage Is a Private Affair

by Chinua Achebe

Start Free Trial

Referring to "Marriage is a Private Affair," describe how a father's love for his son and his grandsons overcame his deep-rooted prejudices.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Part of how Okeke's resistance to his son and grandson breaks down comes as a result of his own guilt. Okeke had taken a very hard- lined and prejudicial approach to Nnaemeka's and Nene's marriage.  Okeke's embrace of his own cultural traditions and his own singular notion of the good caused him to draw arbitrary lines against his son. Okeke had demonstrated a strong fervor for these lines.

All of this changes when he hears that he has grandchildren.  For Okeke, this is the one aspect that he never included in his calculations.  The reality is that while he can shun his son and daughter- in- law, he would also be turning away his grandchildren.  A significant part of the later stages of his life would be absent in his decision.  When he reads Nene's letter that describes how his grandsons want to see their grandfather, the force of emotional guilt helps to make Okeke more loving and thus experience more pain:

The old man at once felt the resolution he had built up over so many years falling in. He was telling himself that he must not give in. He tried to steel his heart against all emotional appeals... He leaned against a window and looked out. The sky was overcast with heavy black clouds and a high wind began to blow, filling the air with dust and dry leaves…. Okeke was trying hard not to think of his two grandsons. But he knew he was now fighting a losing battle… His mind immediately returned to the children. How could he shut his door against them? By a curious mental process he imagined them standing, sad and forsaken, under the harsh angry weather—shut out from his house to them.

Achebe draws out Okeke's characterization as more than one- dimensional.  He tries his best not to "give in."  Yet, "emotional appeals" causes him to acquiesce.  Okeke confronts his own cruelty and callousness towards "his two grandsons."  The imagery of "them standing, sad and forsaken" helps to move him into a more caring and more loving father.  He recognizes at his moment that while upholding his cultural and prejudicial notion of the good, he has silenced his emotional compass.  Due to this, "That night he hardly slept, from remorse—and a vague fear that he might die without making it up to them."  Okeke becomes a more loving and caring human being out of the guilt over his actions and the hurt they might have caused to another.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team