The Bride Price Characters
by Buchi Emecheta

Start Your Free Trial

Download The Bride Price Study Guide

Subscribe Now


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The name Aku-nna literally means "father's wealth." It is Aku-nna who personifies the central theme of the novel, the tradition of the bride price. Though she is in many ways a "daddy's girl," her real wealth is the bride price she will demand and that her father will collect. Even upon her father's death, her uncle-turned-father Okonkwo sets his sight on her bride price. Aku-nna as wealth signifies girls as possessions, first of their fathers, then of their husbands. Chike makes his intentions known when he calls Aku-nna "Akum," meaning "my wealth." But as the heroine of the novel, Aku-nna also heralds new possibilities for girls and women. Her humility and deference to authority demonstrates her respect for tradition and elders. Still she recognizes early on that she has a mind and feelings of her own and she starts to resent the inability to make her own decisions. Aku-nna also hates her mother's passive acceptance of a woman's fate and wishes her mother were a source of support for her.

Ma Blackie, a giant woman with glossy black skin, enters the tale with a "family problem"—she is slow in getting pregnant again. Ma Blackie became a bride at a young age, demanding both a hefty bride price and an Anglican wedding to boot. The least she can do is grant Ezekiel another son, "Aku-nna [knows] she [is] too insignificant to be regarded as a blessing to this unfortunate marriage. Not only [is] she a girl but she [is] much too thin for the approval of her parents, who would rather have a strong and plump little girl for a daughter." Perhaps Ma Blackie's reluctance to bond with a child as fragile as Aku-nna—a potential ogbanje, "living dead"—is that Aku-nna, according to tradition, can die at any time.

Ezekiel Odia feels sorry for his thin, frail daughter who resembles him more than his wife. "Aku-nna [knows] that there [is] a kind of bond between her and her father which [does] not exist between her and her mother."

Ezekiel Odia, as evidenced by his name, is a "typical product" of cultural syncretism. He belongs to the Christian church, but also relies on folk medicine and respects the taboos and superstitions of his native tradition. Ironically, the cause of his death is an injury acquired from his participation in a war that he fought on behalf of his colonizers. It seems appropriate that "he was buried in the same way that he had lived: in a conflict of two cultures."

It is up to Nna-nndo to decide which group of mourners will stand by his father's dead body. Like his father, Nna-nndo is impressed with the celestial images of angels and heaven. Though Nna-nndo is only eleven when his father dies, he is promoted to manhood and expected to take on a leadership role in his family. Nnanndo is a flat character in the text whose purpose is to serve as a foil for Aku-nna. It is Nna-nndo who is the most desirable offspring, whose school fees are secure, who will carry on the family name, and ultimately who will assume leadership in the Odia family. The characterizations of Nnanndo and Aku-nna symbolize the disparity in the ways in which boys and girls are treated in Ibo culture. Aku-nna's cousin, Ogugua, likewise serves as somewhat of an oppositional character to Aku-nna. Through Ogugua's character, Emecheta contrasts the upbringing of a rural Ibo girl to that of an urban one.

Ogugua and Aku-nna are age mates, born in the same week, but the geographical situation of their births steers their lives in dissimilar directions. Ogugua is more connected with Ibuza customs and she has already become a "woman," having begun her menstrual cycle. Ogugua knows what is expected of her as an Ibuza girl. Not formally educated, her world does not present many options for her. Aku-nna's exposure to traditional Ibo culture is limited to what she has gleaned from her family's household. She has not been exposed to women who farm the land, carry heavy loads atop their heads, and bathe naked in the river. Moreover, she has tasted knowledge. She appreciates...

(The entire section is 1,114 words.)