Marriage Is a Private Affair

by Chinua Achebe

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What is the main conflict in the story "Marriage Is a Private Affair"? The story establishes a conflict between Okeke’s traditional values and Nene’s cosmopolitan values. What details does Achebe include to universalize this opposition and suggest it is not confined to Nigerian society?

The main conflict in the short story "Marriage Is a Private Affair" by Chinua Achebe is between Nnaemeka, who chooses a wife for himself, and his father Okeke, who has a more traditional view of marriage. This story has universal appeal because stories of the opposition between more modern-thinking young people and traditional parents are told throughout the world in many countries and cultures.

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The short story "Marriage Is a Private Affair" by Chinua Achebe takes place in Nigeria. A man named Nnaemeka has become engaged to a woman named Nene, who is not of his people, the Ibo. Additionally, he has chosen Nene by himself. It is customary among the Ibo for marriages to be arranged. Nene is also a teacher, and Nnaemeka's father Okeke objects to this due to a Bible verse that says women should keep silent. When Nnaemeka visits his father and tells him of the engagement, Okeke strenuously objects. He declares that the engagement is Satan's work, stops speaking to his son, and says that he will never meet Nene.

For years he holds to this vow, refusing to allow his son or his son's wife to visit. However, Nene changes his mind when she writes to him that his two grandchildren are anxious to meet their grandfather. He relents in his obstinate refusal to meet them and hopes that before he dies he can make things right.

The main conflict in this story is between Nnaemeka and his father Okeke. Nene plays more of a passive role in the conflict, although Nnaemeka's insistence on marrying her does represent a more cosmopolitan or modern view than the traditional narrow-minded opinions of Okeke and the other men in the Ibo village. Nnaemeka is the one who has chosen to defy tradition, take a wife of his own choosing, and marry outside the circle that is generally accepted among his people.

Achebe's story has universal appeal because it is a classic case of young people going against traditional customs that have been approved for generations. This type of story is told in many countries and cultures. It takes various forms, involving couples getting together who are from different races, religions, nationalities, or social statuses. The common thread is the couple's love for each other and the opposition of more traditional parents. In these tales, grandchildren are often the powerful emotional forces that are able to reconcile families torn apart by disagreement.

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