What is the plot of Chinua Achebe's short story "Marriage Is a Private Affair"? 

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chinua Achebe's short story "Marriage is a Private Affair" is set in the ethnically diverse West African nation of Nigeria. It is the story of a marriage between a man and a woman who are from different ethnic groups and the implications of that marriage. 

In the exposition of the story the reader learns that Nnaemeka, an Ibo man, is engaged to Nene, an Ibibio woman. Nene is encouraging Nnaemeka to write a letter to his father about the engagement. He is hesitant because he believes his father may not approve. The couple live in Lagos and have overcome many of the rural prejudices of small village life. Unfortunately, Nnaemeka's father lives in one such village and he cannot abide his son marrying a girl from a different tribe. In the Ibo family, the father often arranges the marriages of his children. The conflict involves both a generation gap and a cultural bias.

Nene argues that Nnaemeka's father will accept the marriage because of his love for his son, but Nnaemeka is still apprehensive when he receives a letter informing him that his father has chosen the perfect girl for him. When he finally informs his father of the plans to marry Nene, the father is shocked and cannot accept it. The father argues against it and notes that Nene is a teacher, which is against the teachings of St. Paul. The father will not relent and tells Nnaemeka that he never wants to see the girl.

News of the marriage spreads throughout Nnaemeka's father's village and is quite the topic of discussion among the men of the village's church who are appalled that the son would marry outside the tribe. The men even suggest that the son might need to see a doctor. This part of the plot reflects the irony of the story's title. After the wedding, Nnaemeka sends a picture to his father, but the father simply cuts out the bride. 

The couple not only faces prejudice from the villages but also from the Ibos who live in Lagos. Nevertheless, the marriage is successful and the couple is described as being very happy. Eventually, in the climax of the story, Nene sends the father a letter telling him that the couple's two sons would very much like to see their grandfather. The resolution seems to be that the father will finally give in and see his son's family, although the story ends before this happens.