What is the theme of “Marriage is a Private Affair” by Chinua Achebe?

One of the main themes of “Marriage is a Private Affair” is the tension between town and country. Though Nene and Nnaemeka are deeply in love, there is still considerable tension between them due to the fact that they come from different backgrounds. Whereas Nene has spent her whole life in a city, Nnaemeka is from a remote, rural part of Nigeria.

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As Shakespeare famously said, the course of true love never did run smooth. And that certainly applies to Nene and Nnaemeka, the two lovebirds in “Marriage is a Private Affair.” Though they are deeply in love with one another, there is nonetheless a good deal of tension between them. This stems largely from the fact that they come from completely different backgrounds. Nene has lived her whole life in the big city—Lagos, to be precise, which at that time was the capital city of Nigeria. Nnaemeka, on the other hand, is an Ibo, and comes from a remote rural part of the country.

The town/rural divide causes considerable complications for Nene and Nnaemeka. Nene is keen to proceed with the wedding as soon as possible and blithely assumes that Nnaemeka's father Okeke will happily give them his blessing. But Nnaemeka's not so sure. Unlike her intended, Nene's not an Ibo, and so doesn't really understand the dim view that Ibo tradition takes of marrying outside one's ethnic group. Although Nnaemeka may have made his home in the city, he cannot and will not slough off the cultural traditions of his native village. And for a city girl like Nene, that's a big problem.

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The theme of Achebe's "Marriage is a Private Affair" is more or less summed up by the title. It is a theme of unconditional love in marriage, and how it is the business of the two parties involve to decide upon it. It teaches a moral lesson about how love is more important than tradition and standard practice.

Nnaemeka, who is the son of a father from the Ibo tribe, is very taken with a girl from another tribe named Nene, even though his own tribe traditionally arranges marriages. Nnaemeka fights his father's scorn and disapproval and decides to let love come before anything else, and he eventually builds a happy family with Nene. At the end of the story, it is proven that Nnaemeka was right to trust his love above his father's word, as his father realizes what a mistake he has made.

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One of the prominent themes Chinua Achebe explores throughout his short story "Marriage is a Private Affair" concerns the conflict between tradition and modernity as well as the importance of tolerance and acceptance. Nnaemeka is from the Ibo tribe and abandons its traditional marriage customs in order to marry the love of his life. According to Ibo tradition, the groom's parents arrange their son's marriage and Nnaemeka's father has already chosen a woman for him to marry. Nnaemeka and his wife, Nene, represent modernity while Nnaemeka's father, Okeke, represents traditional culture and customs. Okeke is vehemently opposed to his son's decision to marry Nene and shuns them for eight years. The conflict between father and son reflect the wider conflict regarding tradition vs. modernity. At the end of the story, Okeke learns about his two grandsons, who desire to meet him, and thinks about compromising his traditional beliefs in order to experience a loving relationship with his family again. Okeke's decision to open his heart and allow Nnaemeka and his family back into his life illustrates Achebe's theme regarding tradition vs. modernity and the importance of tolerance and acceptance.

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The theme of a piece of literature is the truth about human nature revealed in the story. A theme is often linked to a change in a main character. The theme of Chinua Achebe's short story "Marriage is a Private Affair" may be that the father, Okeke, realizes in the end that love, especially familial love, is more important than tradition. The conflict in the story revolves around Okeke's disapproval of his son's marriage to a girl who is outside of their ethnic group. Nnaemeka, from the Ibo tribe, marries Nene, an Ibibio woman, much to the dismay of Okeke, who objects to Nene for multiple reasons. Not only is she not Ibo, but she is also a teacher; and in Okeke's understanding of Christianity, women should not be teachers. Moreover, Okeke had intended for Nnaemeka to marry a girl from his small village because tradition usually dictated that fathers would arrange the marriages of their sons in the Ibo culture.

Because Nnaemeka goes ahead with the marriage anyway, Okeke basically disowns him and doesn't see him for eight years. In the meantime, the couple are happy and prosperous. They have two sons who soon learn about their grandfather and "insist" on being taken to him. When Nene writes to Okeke about her sons' wishes, he begins to soften and the suggestion at the end of the story is that Okeke will eventually see his son's family. While tradition is obviously important to Okeke, his family means even more, and in the last line of the story he worries that "he might die without making it up to them."

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