What does Chinua Achebe's story "Marriage is a Private Affair" say about the relationship between fathers and sons?  

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A poignant story about love conquering even the staunchest of cultural norms, Achebe's "Marriage is a Private Affair" has much to say in regard to the relationship between fathers and sons. It is a lesson that despite their own personal misgivings, fathers cannot dictate their sons' destinies for them for any reason, and certainly not for the societal or religious prejudices that may be outdated or even flawed. In the beginning of the story, Nnaemeka has chosen a wife very carefully, but he is quite nervous about revealing his intentions to his father as his intended, Nene, is not of the Ibo tribe.

Indeed, when Nnaemeka's father, Okeke, hears of his plans, he is furious and even considers the match to be a plot by the devil. Unable to sway Nnaemeka away from his love, Okeke resolves to simply disown his son in his heart and to cut him completely out of his life. Nnaemeka, however, has faith that his father will eventually change his mind. Indeed, when Nnaemeka and Nene finally bear Okeke's grandchildren, he feels his defenses falling. He is struck immediately by guilt over the relatively petty nature of his disagreement with his son, in the wake of two blameless children who simply want to meet their grandfather. He is overwhelmed by the sadness that he feels upon reflecting on all the time he wasted being hateful.

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In Chinua Achebe's short story "Marriage is a Private Affair," he portrays father-son relationships as complex, competitive, and intense. Initially, Nnaemeka has a positive relationship with his father, Okeke, who is a staunch traditionalist and devout Christian. However, Nnaemeka is aware that his father will not approve of his decision to dismiss the traditional Igbo marriage custom by proposing to Nene. When Nnaemeka travels from Lagos back to his Nigerian village to speak with his father, Okeke has already begun to make plans for his son to marry a woman named Ugoye. Nnaemeka proceeds to apologize to his father for dismissing the traditional Igbo marriage custom and explains to him that he will be marrying the love of his life, Nene. Okeke then reveals his callous, stubborn nature by shunning Nnaemeka and refusing to accept his apology.

Okeke's response to his son's will reveals the competitive nature of father-son relationships. Okeke wishes for Nnaemeka to obey his will and honor the Igbo tradition while Nnaemeka wants his father to respect his decision and give him his blessing. Despite Nnaemeka's numerous attempts to repair his relationship with his father, Okeke remains obstinate and refuses to speak to him for eight years. It is Okeke's competitive nature and belief that his son should submit to his will that motivates him to remain distant.

At the end of the story, Okeke receives a letter from Nene regarding his two grandsons and begins to entertain the idea of repairing his relationship with Nnaemeka. Okeke's willingness to make amends reveals his love for Nnaemeka and desire to open his heart. Okeke's complicated feelings towards Nnaemeka reveal that father-son relationships are also complex. Okeke's strong emotions and difficult decision to shun Nnaemeka throughout the story indicate that father-son relationships are often intense. Overall, Achebe portrays father-son relationships as complex, competitive, and intense.

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It is evident from the beginning of Chinua Achebe's short story "Marriage is a Private Affair" that the relationship between Nnaemeka and Okeke is quite amiable. Nnaemeka seems to be a faithful son who is very much aware of his father's opinion. Unfortunately for Nnaemeka, he falls in love with a woman who does not fit his father's expectations. It is a scenario which has played itself out many times in the history of father and son relationships. There is a generational and cultural conflict between father and son. Okeke lives in the traditional and prejudiced world of his small Nigerian village while Nnaemeka lives in the modern city of Lagos. Okeke fully expects his son to marry a woman of his own tribe and ethnic group. He has, in fact, already picked out a girl for his son. Nnaemeka, however, views the world in a different way. He no longer accepts the idea that his father should arrange his marriage and that he needs to live out his life married to someone who is socially and culturally appropriate, but whom he simply does not love. At one point in the story, Nnaemeka expresses his frustration with his father as he describes the girl he plans on marrying:

"Nene Atang from Calabar. She is the only girl I can marry." This was a very rash reply and Nnaemeka expected the storm to burst. But it did not. His father merely walked away into his room. This was most unexpected and perplexed Nnaemeka. His father's silence was infinitely more menacing than a flood of threatening speech. That night the old man did not eat. (Achebe 1347)

The reaction of Okeke reveals that he has been deeply disappointed by his son, who has probably never disappointed him before. Heretofore, the father and son relationship had been seemingly impeccable, most likely because Nnaemeka had always lived up to his father's expectations. Nnaemeka is simply not the rebellious son, and it is evident that he is distressed by his father's reaction. He hopes for the best and that his father will eventually accept his marriage. It takes eight years, but ultimately Okeke softens after hearing that he has two grandsons. In the end, love trumps stubbornness and it is suggested that Okeke will reunite with his son and his family.

MLA citations are very easy. A routine Google search should lead you in the right direction. I have used MLA style at the end of the quote, although the page number is for my particular anthology (World Literature, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1993) and probably differs from yours. Also make sure to give a full citation of the story in your works cited section.

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