illustrated portrait of Igbo Nigerian author Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe

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What are Nnaemeka's objections to his father's choice of bride?

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Nnaemeka's father is extremely upset that his son refuses to follow the Ibo tradition of marriage. It was customary for Ibo parents to pick a suitable mate for their child, but Nnaemeka has already proposed to an Ibibio girl named Nene. After talking with Nene about marriage, Nnaemeka walks home and thinks about ways to fight his father's opposition. As Nnaemeka is thinking, he takes out a letter from his father concerning a suitable mate back in his home village. Nnaemeka cannot help but laugh when he thinks about Ugoye, the girl his father has picked for him. Nnaemeka remembers that Ugoye was an "Amazon girl" who used to beat up on the boys in school. Nnaemeka was also a victim of Ugoye's beatings and also mentions that she was a complete dunce at school. In addition to the fact that Ugoye is unintelligent and, as he sees it, masculine, Nnaemeka is already engaged, which is why he refuses to marry her.

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Nnaemeka is the main character in Chinua Achebe's short story "Marriage is a Private Affair." The story revolves around his father's objections to Nnaemeka's marriage to a girl outside of their ethnic group. In the beginning of the story, Nnaemeka is hesitant to tell his father about Nene, the Ibibio girl he has already proposed to. Because Nnaemeka is Ibo, he believes his father may not approve of the marriage. For the Ibo, it was common for the parents to pick out a suitable mate. In this case, Nnaemeka's father has written him a letter extolling the attributes of Ugoye Nweke, the daughter of the father's neighbor. The father brags that she is perfect for Nnaemeka. She is, above all, a good Christian, which was quite important to the father. Beside the fact he is already engaged to someone else, Nnameka has three objections to Ugoye. He remembers that she was "an Amazon of a girl," meaning she was much bigger than the other girls. Because of her size, she used to beat up the boys of the village. Finally, Nnaemeka remembers that she was a "dunce at school." Eventually, Nnaemeka informs his father that times have changed and that arranged marriages are not a part of modern life. Much to his father's dismay, Nnaemeka rejects Ugoye and marries Nene, causing the father to shun his son for several years. 

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