What is the significance of Mrs. Ochuba and Amalile in "Marriage is a Private Affair"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this classic story which concerns the generational conflict between a father clinging to his tribal ways and his son, who by choosing to marry outside of his tribe rejects the customs and beliefs of his father, Amalile and Mrs. Ochuba are mentioned by the father's friends and members of the tribe by talking about the way that Okeke should seek some kind of traditional medical cure to solve his son's stubborn determination to select who he wants as his future wife. Note what Madubogwu suggests:

The boy's mind is diseased and only a good herbalist can bring him back to his right senses. The medicine he requires is Amalile, the same that women apply with success to recapture their husbands' straying affection.

Amalile is thus the name given of the medicine that was used in this tribe to regain the affection of unfaithful husbands. However, Okeke refuses to adopt such an approach, citing the case of Mrs. Ochuba, who followed this scheme but ended up unwittingly poisoning the herbalist in "trying it out" because she did not go to an "honest herbalist." Okeke determines to let his son follow his own path and to let him face the consequences of being isolated and rejected.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nnaemeka's father, Okeke, is completely opposed to his son's marriage to a woman who does not come from their people and who is not an Ibo. The father's friends recommend that the son be administered a medicine called Amalile, which apparently allows straying husbands to be attracted to their wives again. Mrs. Ochuba intended to give this medicine to her husband for this purpose, but it was given to the herbalist instead, who died as a result. Some of the men around Nnaemeka's father refer to Mrs. Ochuba as a murderess. 

Okeke refuses to administer this medicine to his son. At the end of the story, Okeke regrets having distanced himself from his son's family when he learns that his son and his wife have two sons who want to meet him. It is then that he begins to relent, and it is the sons who are truly the Amalile, or the medicine that will bring Okeke to reconcile with his son and his son's family.