Marriage Is a Private Affair Questions and Answers
by Chinua Achebe

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Marriage Is A Private Affair Theme

What is the theme of "Marriage Is a Private Affair"?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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According to eNotes, the theme of a piece of literature is "the central and dominating idea in a literary work." In the case of "Marriage Is a Private Affair," the main themes are family and tradition. In fact, we can combine these themes into one truth that resonates in the story: family trumps tradition. Okeke spends much of the plot being upset with his son's marriage to Nene because she does not share their Ibo culture in their native Nigeria. There is an eight-year hiatus where father and son do not see each other at all. During this time, Nnaemeka and Nene continue with their happy marriage and begin their new family by having two sons. The sons are the characters who insist on seeing their grandfather, Okeke. When he hears about his grandsons' wishes through a letter from Nene, Okeke is drawn to the prospect of family that he has neglected. Okeke becomes filled with regret and is afraid that "he might die without making it up to them." Even though the story ends before Okeke meets his grandsons, the reunion seems assured.

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Sol Gandy eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The main conflict in Chinua Achebe's short story "Marriage is a Private Affair" is between a father and a son. In a broader scope, it also involves a conflict between generations and cultures. The father, Okeke, lives in a small rural village and his life is dictated by the ancient precepts of his culture, including strict rules about marriage. On the other hand, his son Nnaemeka has moved to the modern city of Lagos and looks at the world in a completely different way. He feels as though he is not bound by cultural taboos. He decides to go against the old ways by marrying a girl who is not from his Ibo tribe. This marriage is initially unacceptable to his father but as time passes, and Okeke learns after eight years that he has two grandsons, his heart softens. In the end, Achebe suggests that Okeke will give in and see his son's family. The theme of the story, then, is that love, especially familial love, can overcome cultural and generational conflicts. Acceptance is also a powerful theme of the story as Okeke begins to understand that he lives in a new reality and that old traditions, prejudices and ways of thinking need to be set aside in a rapidly changing modern world.   

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