Marriage Is a Private Affair

by Chinua Achebe

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Who is the most sympathetically portrayed character in "Marriage Is a Private Affair"?

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In the short story "Marriage is a Private Affair," Nnaemeka is portrayed as the most sympathetic character because of his difficult decision to marry Nene, which unfortunately ruins his relationship with his father. Nnaemeka is depicted as a proponent of modernity, and he is portrayed as a compassionate, courageous man with integrity. Initially, Nnaemeka makes the honorable decision to tell his father to his face that he is marrying Nene. Nnaemeka realizes that his father will be upset, but he respects his father enough to tell him to his face that he is engaged. Nnaemeka demonstrates his integrity and courage by going against the traditional marriage practices of his tribe and independently deciding to marry Nene. He does not allow the traditional marriage practices to determine his fate, and he accepts the consequences of his decision.

Even though his father rejects him and vehemently disagrees with his decision to marry Nene, Nnaemeka does not lose hope. He writes to his father several times in an attempt to heal their relationship. He even sends his father a picture of him and his wife, hoping that his father will eventually accept his marriage. Overall, Nnaemeka is depicted in a positive light throughout the story, and the audience sympathizes with his difficult situation. Nnaemeka chooses love over his tribe's traditional practices and never gives up hope believing that his father will someday accept his marriage.

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There are basically only three characters in Chinua Achebe's short story "Marriage is a Private Affair," Nnaemeka, Nene and Nnaemeka's father Ugoye. Of the three it could be argued that Nene is portrayed most symphatically. In the exposition of the story she seems oblivious to the idea that Nnaemeka's father could object to the couple's marriage. She very much wants Nnaemeka to announce their relationship to his father. She was apparently raised by parents who did not display the prejudices inherent in the small village where Nnaemeka grew up.

She cannot believe that Ugoye would object to her on ethnic grounds. After all, she is a successful woman who is a teacher and, according to stories told by the Ibo women of Lagos, quite a good homemaker as well. She breaks down and cries when she discovers the "mutilated picture" of her marriage which is returned by Ugoye with her photograph cut out and a letter indicating he wants nothing to do with his son's wife. Later, however, Nene is the catalyst which may bring the family back together. After several years in which Ugoye shunned his son, Nene sends a letter telling him that the couple now has two sons who would very much like to see their grandfather. The letter seems to soften Ugoye and the text suggests that Ugoye will reunite with his son and his family. In the end, Nene's courage to communicate with Ugoye will ultimately bring father and son back together.   

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