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Marriage Is a Private Affair

by Chinua Achebe

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Discussion Topic

The significance and irony of the title "Marriage Is a Private Affair."

Summary:

The title "Marriage Is a Private Affair" is ironic because the story depicts how societal and familial pressures intrude on the protagonist's marriage, making it anything but private. The significance lies in highlighting the conflict between individual desires and traditional expectations, emphasizing the challenges of maintaining personal agency within a communal framework.

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Justify the title "Marriage is a Private Affair."

I think that the title of Achebe's work is justified in the character of Okeke.  Through his own evolution and change, the father ends up learning that marriage is, indeed, a private affair.  Okeke is quite insistent that marriage be seen as a public matter.  In the opening of the narrative, marriage is viewed as a public affair in how he selects a bride for his son and the insistence with which he pursues his son's marriage.  While he shuns his son in a callous and cold manner, he remains convinced that marriage is a public affair.

All this changes in the resolution of the story.  The letter from Nene shows that the marriage between Nnaemeka and Nene has been successful, and with children.  These children wish to meet their grandfather.  Nene's letter proves that the title is justified as she asks Okeke to meet his son and grandchildren.  For her part, she will remain in Lagos.  Such an action validates the private condition of marriage.  It is something that she will not sacrifice for her father- in- law.  Her asking him to meet his grandsons without her presence helps to justify how her marriage is and will always be a private affair.  Okeke realizes this when he contemplates his actions in shutting out his grandchildren, awaking with a fear that he might never have a chance to right his wrong.  This realization demonstrates how he has come to understand that marriage is a private affair, something that he has to concede if he wishes to see his grandchildren.  In this, the title of the work is justified as the characters have come to embrace its truth and validity.

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What is the irony in the title "Marriage Is a Private Affair"?

The title of Chinua Achebe's short story is an example of verbal irony. Verbal irony occurs when words are used to suggest the opposite of what is meant. Rather than being private, the marriage in question, between Nene and Nnaemeka, is actually quite public. The topic is the center of conversation in the small village where Nnaemeka grew up and where his father, Okeke, still lives. His father and the other men of the village lament the fact that Nnaemeka is marrying a girl who is not from his own ethnic group. Nnaemeka is Ibo while Nene is from the Ibibio tribe. Okeke is very much against the marriage and disowns his son for eight years. The men of the village even suggest that Nnaemeka is in need of an herbal remedy because he is not thinking right. Likewise, in Lagos, where Nnaemeka and Nene live, the marriage is discussed and frowned upon by the Ibo women who live there. Gradually, however, they come to the conclusion that Nene is acceptable and admit that she keeps her home nicer than they do. Even the father eventually comes around and it is suggested at the end of the story that he will accept Nnaemeka's wife and two sons. 

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What is the irony in the title "Marriage Is a Private Affair"?

The title is also ironic because it uses the word "affair," which can mean several different things. 

The word "affair" can refer to an incident or an occurrence. As the other educators pointed out, it can also refer to a private matter or concern. However, another meaning of the word is understood as, "an illicit relationship or dalliance."

The title states that "marriage is a private affair." Normally, no one would refer to a marriage as an illicit dalliance. In fact, marriage is a public declaration of fidelity. As is the usual practice, "forbidden" affairs are often conducted in secret, and the parties involved are usually not too keen on their secret being discovered. Much is at stake in such an arrangement.

In Achebe's story, the title indicates what is made clear in the story. The groom's father (Okeke) makes his disgust with his son Nnaemeka's impending marriage to Nene public knowledge in his community. The men from Okeke's community unequivocally sympathize with Okeke's grief and anger. They condemn in blistering terms Nnaemeka's rebellious insistence on marrying Nene. In fact, the men characterize Nnaemeka's actions as a grave sin against his parent and God.

In characterizing Nnaemeka's actions in this manner, both Okeke and his male compatriots have reduced holy matrimony between two people to the level of an immoral dalliance. In these men's eyes, Nnaemeka and Nene's marriage is not a sacred, lasting alliance but a wicked sexual flirtation that is bound to fail. In Nnaemeka and Nene's case, the irony in the title is clear: far from their marriage being a sacred alliance, it is now a "private affair," something to be ashamed of within the confines of Ibo culture. 

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What is the irony in the title "Marriage Is a Private Affair"?

As was mentioned in the previous response, the title of the short story "Marriage is a Private Affair" is an example of verbal irony. Verbal irony occurs when the speaker intentionally makes a statement that contradicts their emotions or actions. The statement has an underlying meaning that is the opposite of its literal interpretation. In the story, the marriage between Nnaemeka and Nene is anything but private. Nnaemeka's father, Okeke, discusses his son's marriage with the other villagers and is upset that Nnaemeka chose his own wife. According to Ibo culture, it is custom for parents to choose who their children will marry. Even in Lagos, Nene is ostracized for her decision to marry Nnaemeka without his parents' influence and blessing. Achebe uses verbal irony in his title to illuminate how marriage in the Ibo tribe is in fact a public affair. Nnaemeka and Nene's relationship is openly discussed and judged by the citizens of Nnaemeka's home village and Lagos.

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What is the irony in the title "Marriage Is a Private Affair"?

Chinua Achebe's short story "Marriage is a Private Affair" is about the cultural and generational problems which arise when a man from the Ibo tribe wants to marry a girl from the Ibibio tribe of Nigeria. Nnaemeka is hesitant to tell his father about his impending marriage to Nene, because he believes his father will be against him marrying outside his own ethnic group. He is right and his father basically disowns him. 

The title is an example of verbal irony where language is used to say one thing but means the opposite. It is quite ironic because the marriage is far from "private." It is thoroughly discussed among the men in Nnaemeka's father's village. It is, in fact, quite an important topic in the village as it was rare for someone to marry out of their group. The men of the village are shocked and lament that a son has risen against his father. The marriage is also a topic of discussion among the Ibo women in the relatively cosmopolitan city of Lagos, where the couple lives. They initially disapprove but eventually overcome their prejudice and accept Nene into their group. The father too is on the verge of acceptance at the end of the story.

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