Marriage Is a Private Affair Cover Image

Marriage Is a Private Affair

by Chinua Achebe

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Character and Profession of Nene in "Marriage Is a Private Affair"


In "Marriage Is a Private Affair," Nene is a young, educated woman who works as a schoolteacher in Lagos. She is characterized by her modern views on marriage, which contrast with traditional expectations, and her love for Nnaemeka, which drives her to seek acceptance from his conservative father.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is Nene's profession in "Marriage Is a Private Affair"?

In the story, Nene is a teacher at a school for girls in Lagos.

We find this out during Nnaemeka's conversation with his father, Okeke, when he is breaking the news that he is engaged to Nene.

Unfortunately for Nnaemeka and Nene, Okeke is extremely opposed to the idea of women teaching. He abides strictly by Biblical beliefs, and he sincerely adheres to the notion that women shouldn't teach others and, further, that they should "keep silent." Okeke quotes "St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians," a passage from the Bible, when he reminds his son about his views.

In fact, Okeke doesn't just disown his son and leave it at that--he feels an ongoing struggle and deep shame about the fact that Nnaemeka went forward in a marriage to a woman who teaches. Okeke has other problems with Nene (mostly because she doesn't belong to the Ibo tribe, and because she wasn't part of a traditional arranged marriage) but Nene's profession is definitely a factor that prevents Okeke from accepting her as his daughter-in-law.

You might ask, what kind of job should a girl have in order for her to be accepted by Okeke as a suitable wife for his son? We get a clue in Nnaemeka's description of Ugoye, the traditional girl he was supposed to marry but didn't love:

"When she stopped schooling some years ago her father (a man of sound judgment) sent her to live in the house of a pastor where she has received all the training a wife could need. Her Sunday school teacher has told me that she reads her Bible very fluently."

So really, Okeke would prefer a girl who has no profession or even schooling. He would prefer a daughter-in-law who simply reads and abides by the Bible.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How would you describe the character Nene in "Marriage Is a Private Affair"?

At the beginning of the short story, Nene encourages Nnaemeka to inform his father of their engagement via a letter. Nnaemeka tells Nene that his father would appreciate hearing the news face to face. She also doesn't see what the big deal is about Nnaemeka marrying her. Nene's belief that Nnaemeka's father would be happy for them portrays her naive personality. When Nnaemeka tells Okeke that he will marry Nene, he says that Nene possesses all of the same qualities of Ugoye. Nene is a Christian woman who is helpful around the home and is a morally upright individual. Nene is also a teacher, which means that she values education and helping others. Achebe also describes how the community was prejudiced against Nene, but she eventually became friends with them. Her neighbors even acknowledge that she keeps a good home and comment on how happy she is as Nnaemeka's wife. Nene also shows her determination and respect by writing to Okeke about his grandchildren. Nene even mentions that she will stay in Lagos during the visit to appease Okeke. Overall, Nene is intelligent, joyful, hardworking, and determined.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on