In "Marriage is a Private Affair," what do the neighbors say about the son's behavior?

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

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In "Marriage is a Private Affair," Okeke's neighbors talk about how surprised and shocked at Nnaemeka's decision to marry outside of his father's choice.

Okeke's neighbors are surprised at his son's actions. Achebe describes the shock of the tribe regarding Nnaemeka's decision to marry Nene: "If it had occurred to him that never in the history of his people had a man married a woman who spoke a different tongue, he might have been less optimistic." The weight of disobeying tradition is what guides most of the neighbors' words.  An old man says, "It has never been heard," regarding what Nnaemeka marrying outside of custom.  Another one asked if Okeke's son was sick, reflecting that someone of sound mind could not possibly do what he had done.  This is echoed with another neighbor who suggests that there must be "medicine" to "cure" the boy.  Another neighbor spoke of how the Bible predicted Nnaemeka's perceived disobedience:  "What did Our Lord say?' asked another gentleman. 'Sons shall rise against their Fathers; it is there in the Holy Book.”  

In all of these spoken exchanges, the neighbors express their astonishment at a son who turns his back on both his father and the tribe's traditions.  Achebe includes their reactions to show how the community and Okeke see what Nnaemeka did as the ultimate transgression.

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