Marriage Is a Private Affair Cover Image

Marriage Is a Private Affair

by Chinua Achebe

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Discussion Topic

Compare and contrast Nnaemeka and Okeke from "Marriage Is a Private Affair."

Summary:

Nnaemeka and Okeke are contrasted by their views on tradition and modernity. Nnaemeka embraces modern values, choosing love over cultural expectations, while Okeke strictly adheres to traditional customs and initially rejects his son's marriage. However, both characters share a deep familial bond, as Okeke's eventual regret and longing to reconcile with Nnaemeka illustrate their underlying connection.

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In "Marriage is a Private Affair," what are the similarities and differences between Nnaemeka and Okeke?

Father and son possess some basic similarities.  One particular connection is that both are passionate about their beliefs.  Okeke is adament about his son following his wishes about marriage.  Nnaemeka is committed to his relationship with Nene.  When the conflict between both emerge, neither really surrenders their original point of view.  There is a lack of acquiescence in both.  This is exactly where I think that Achebe's characterizations are strong.  They both do not experience full authenticity in their beliefs, but they don't back down from them.  Nnaemeka does not really feel comfortably in angering his father, but he does.  Okeke does relent in his feelings about his son and grandsons, but he still refuses to accept Nene as his daughter in law.  In this, both father and son possess ambivalence about their choices, but neither one changes their choices despite such obvious apprehension.  In terms of specific differences, I think that Okeke is more representative of cultural tradition, while his son is more of modernity.  The former remains in his village with elders, adhering to tribal codes of conduct, while the son is in the city and more able to prove willing to embrace the modern condition.  This helps to bring out a fundamental theme of the short story in the collision between tradition and modernity.

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Compare and contrast Nnaemeka and Okeke from "Marriage Is a Private Affair".

Some comparisons exist between the father, Okeke, and son, Nnaemeka. Both consider themselves Christian. This discussion arises when Okeke has found a good Christian woman for his son. However, Nnaemeka has already found his own Christian woman who is a school teacher from the town of Lagos. Okeke is outraged that his son would marry for love rather than follow his father's wishes even though they both profess they are Christian.

The similarity between the two stop at the above. Their differences are the cause of the conflict in the story. Nnaemeka marries for love, and he is considered an outcast by his stubborn father. Keep in mind that a generation gap exists between the father and son. So, "For eight years, Okeke would have nothing to do with his son." Nnaemeka tries to gain his father's acceptance, writing letters and sending pictures in an attempt to communicate. His character forgives his father for his unwillingness to accept his wife. However, at the end of the story, Okeke finds it in his heart to accept his son's family upon learning of his grandchildren. Okeke is remorseful and opens his heart after all.

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Compare and contrast Nnaemeka and Okeke from "Marriage Is a Private Affair".

The most evident similarity is that both are related to one another.  They are both members of the Ibo tribal community and are father and son.  Realistically, I think that is where their points of similarity end.  The bulk of the story highlights their differences.  Nnaemeka has moved to Lagos and has embraced the cosmopolitan approach of the city.  His relationship with Nene is reflective of this.  He has moved away from the tribal rituals of the Ibo and his choice of Nene as a bride reflects this.  Nnaemeka has embraced a modern construction of marriage and love.  This reflects a general character trait of the son, one that shows him to be flexible and rather open- minded.  He does not want to break his wife's heart or his father's heart.  Yet, he knows what his heart wants and honors that.

Certainly, Okeke does not represent this flexibility.  He is highly traditional, clinging to his ways amongst the Ibo.  He believes in a parent- chosen arranged marriage for his son.  Okeke does not accept Nene, and he does not accept his son's choices.  He rejects them both in a fairly harsh manner.  In cutting out Nene's head from the wedding photograph sent to him and then writing that both son and daughter- in- law do not exist represents how stringent he is in his beliefs.  He is intractable until the end of the story. Okeke embodies the notion of tradition, in stark contrast to his son.

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