Notes: Analysis of 'Marriage Is a Private Affair.' A Short Story by Chinua Achebe

Notes: Analysis of 'Marriage Is a Private Affair.' A Short Story by Chinua Achebe

Nigeria is a country with more than 250 ethnic groups. These groups have different languages and they often differ in religion, customs, and traditions. The Ibo and Ibibio both live in south-eastern Nigeria but traditionally they did not intermarry. As we can see in the story, a young Ibo man and an Ibibio woman have moved from their native regions to Lagos, a large and modern city in South-western Nigeria. But they encounter unexpected decision from the father of an Ibo young man who does not agree with their decision to intermarry. As cultural interactions intensify and become less significant the father’s resolution fails to work and he finally comes to realize that marriage is really a personal and private thing.
  • The title
  • The setting
  • Style and other Literary Techniques
  • The plot
  • Characterization
  • Language
  • Theme
  • Conflict
  • Message
  • Lessons (Morals)
  • Philosophy
  • Relevance of the story

The tile “Marriage is a Private Affair” is symbolical. It represents the truth that marriage issues should be personal or privately decided. It is realistic when it comes to be decided privately by his son.
The story is set in Nigeria. It starts at 16 Kasanga Street, Lagos.
The author has applied several writing styles in this story. Some of the styles are: Use of third person narrative style, flashback, and Use of letters.
The story starts with Nene asking Nnaemeka if he has written a letter to his dad (father). Nnaemeka says he hasn’t written to him; he is thinking to write to him when he gets home on leave but Nene insists on writing to him immediately.
Really, Nnaemeka and Nene Atang are partners who wish to get married soon. They live in Lagos city. However, there are tribal differences which become a great problem to their marriage. Nene is persuading Nnaemeka to write a letter to his father informing him that he has got a girl to marry. Emeka says the people of his tribe believe that parents are only responsible for choosing a girl for their son, but because he has lived in the city for a long time, then he doesn’t know the people in remote parts of the country. Thus, he must marry a girl he knows very much about her just as he knows Nene.
Nnaemeka is from Ibo tribe but Nene is from Ibibio tribe. This creates fear in them especially to Emeka whose father is still alive. Nene says;
You don’t really mean that he (Emeka’s father) will object to your marrying me simply on that account? I had always thought you Ibos are kindly disposed to other people”.
Emeka replies;
So we are. But when it comes to marriage, well, it’s not quite so simple. And this is not peculiar to the Ibos. If your father were alive and lived in the heart of Ibibio-land he would be exactly like my father”.
Emeka has told Nene that most parents become unhappy if the marriage is not arranged by them. And, in her own mind, Nene thinks that it is a joke that a person’s tribe could determine whom he married. Nene finally insists Emeka to write a lovely letter to his father and he will be forgiven and agreed at once.
As Emeka walks back home that evening he is filled with several thoughts about the situation. He always had a letter from his father; and there is one that mentioned a girl his father has chosen for him. He had thought of showing his letter to Nene but decided not to do so. At home, he read it again and smiled to himself. He remembered a girl mentioned in a letter. Her name was Ugoye. He remembered her well, as an Amazon girl who used to beat up all the boys, himself included, on the way to the stream, a complete dance at school.
This letter from his father reads as follows:
I have found a girl who will suit you admirably – Ugoye Nweke, the eldest daughter of our neighbor, Jacob Nweke. She has a proper Christian upbringing. 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. I hope we shall begin negotiations when you come home in December”.

Finally, Emeka visits his father in December as letter says. 


For more Notes, read Notes on “Marriage is a Private Affair”

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Achebe, C (1968) Girls at War and Other Stories, Heinemann, Nigeria.

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Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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