Marriage Is a Private Affair

by Chinua Achebe

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Why does Okeke oppose Nnaemeka's choice of a wife?

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Okeke opposes Nnaemeka's choice of a wife for three reasons. The most important reason is that Nene is from a different ethnic group than Nnaemeka. She is Ibibio and he is Ibo. Even though both groups are from southeast Nigeria, they rarely entered into mixed marriages until modern times. The couple have moved to Lagos and broken tradition by marrying each other. The men of Okeke's village agree with him in his disapproval of the marriage. One man says, "It has never been heard" and believes the son has rebelled against his father. Even the Ibo people who live in the modern city of Lagos are skeptical of the marriage. Eventually, however, they warm to Nene and "admit that she kept her home much better than most of them."

The second reason is that it was typical for Ibo parents to arrange the marriages of their sons and daughters. In this case, Okeke has written Nnaemeka about a girl in his village who would be a perfect match. She is Ibo, a good Christian, and the daughter of Okeke's neighbor. Nnaemeka remembers her as an "Amazon of a girl" who wasn't very smart.

A third reason is expressed by Okeke after learning that Nene is a teacher at a girls' school in Lagos. Citing the Bible, Okeke claims that women should not be teachers and tells Nnaemeka that St. Paul wrote that women "should keep silence." When Okeke eventually learns that Nene is not an Ibo, he tells Nnaemeka that he will never see her and basically disowns his son and renounces the marriage. 

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