Marriage Is a Private Affair

by Chinua Achebe

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

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Tone is the author's attitude toward the topic. Despite the fact that the short story "Marriage Is a Private Affair" is about very sensitive events, Chinua Achebe remains mostly objective and unbiased in his tone throughout the third person narration of the story. It is the story of Nnaemeka's struggle with his father over his upcoming marriage to a girl not from their ethnic group. The narrator relates the details of Nnaemeka's conflict with his father as they happened without emotional bias. Only in the dialogue of Okeke and the men of his village is there a definite attitude of negativity, but the narrator never uses language which suggests these men were out of line or even wrong in their assessment of Nnaemeka's action. Their dialogue is simply not commented on and the narrator seems to have nothing but respect for their words, even though the men say things that verge on belief in superstition and are somewhat comic in nature, especially the exchange between Madubogwu and Jonathan about herbal remedies. Possibly only once does the narrator verge into subjective commentary when he notes that Nnaemeka was "smiling to himself" about the girl his father had chosen to be his wife. The girl, it seems, was quite large and not very bright. In this very discreet example the narrator's tone tends to imply ridicule toward the girl and his father's seemingly simple-minded choice. Otherwise, it is difficult to say that the tone ever diverges from an almost journalistic account of the situation.

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