Marriage Is a Private Affair Summary
by Chinua Achebe

Start Your Free Trial

Download Marriage Is a Private Affair Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Extended Summary

Chinua Achebe’s story “Marriage Is a Private Affair” opens with a discussion between a young woman named Nene and a young man named Nnaemeka, who live in Lagos, Nigeria; they are in love and plan to marry. Nene wants Nnaemeka to inform his father of their plans as soon as possible, but the young man is nervous. He anticipates that his father, a member of the Ibo tribe who lives in rural Nigeria, will not approve his son’s marriage to a woman of the son’s own choosing, especially when the father discovers that Nene is not an Ibo. Nene cannot believe that anyone would care so much about tribal background; she urges Nnaemeka to write his father a letter informing him of the couple’s plans. Nnaemeka, however, thinks it would be better to tell his father in person, especially since he has recently received a letter from his father informing him that the father has already chosen a bride for him, a woman in whom Nnaemeka has no interest. In his letter, the father informed Nnaemeka that the girl he had found for his son to marry is a good Christian and has received all the training necessary to make her a good wife.

Back home in his native village, Nnaemeka and his father talk. Nnaemeka asks forgiveness and then reveals that he does not love the woman his father has chosen for him—a fact that matters little to his father. Nnaemeka also reveals that he has found a woman (Nene) whom he loves and wants to marry. He explains that Nene is also a good Christian and that she is a schoolteacher. Believing that the Bible prohibits women from being teachers, his father is infuriated. After the father delivers a sermon on this topic, he begins to calm down, but he becomes enraged again when he discovers that Nene is not even an Ibo. The father abruptly leaves his son alone; that evening the father cannot even eat. He considers the intended marriage a plot by the devil. The next day he dismisses his son, although Nnaemeka is hopeful that his father will someday relent. The father, however, says that he intends never even to meet Nene, let alone approve of the marriage. Other people in the village strongly agree that no such marriage has ever been heard of. They support the father’s stance. Some think that the marriage violates Christian rules; others suggest that the son needs medical treatment by a doctor using herbs. The father, however, dismisses the latter idea.

When Nnaemeka sends his father a wedding picture, the father is offended, tears the picture in half, and returns only the half featuring his son. He writes that he wishes to have nothing to do with either of...

(The entire section is 714 words.)