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Short Story Analysis: 'Marriage is a Private Affair' by Chinua Achebe

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The excerpt from Nectar in a Sieve and “Marriage Is a Private Affair” demonstrate the negative and the positive influences of modern ideas and modern ways on traditional cultures. To begin with, one of the pronounced positive influences of modern ways on traditional cultures in the excerpt from Nectar in a Sieve is the medical expertise that is more advanced and effective than the traditional method of seeking aid by prayers which was demonstrated unsuccessful by Rukmani herself. Kenny, an accomplished western doctor, treated Rukmani to bear sons, who are important members of the most traditional family since sons are the chief inheritor of family assets and of the key workers in the family, indicating how modernity and traditions can survive collectively and still be positive. In addition, the construction of the tannery in a rural village in India is the embodiment of how modernity can be complex in terms of being a positive and negative influence on traditional ways of life. Rukmani acknowledges that despite the ability to sell her vegetables at a higher price with the increased demand from well-off western workers, her financial struggle remains unchanged. Other characters recognize the benefits of the modernization that accompanies the construction. Tannery, representing an expansion of the modern system, can improve lifestyle with an emergence of new manufacturing occupation opportunities that develops an economic system not just solely based on agriculture.

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Furthermore, “Marriage Is a Private Affair” demonstrates how modern ideas can challenge traditional viewpoints and convictions regarding marriage and gender roles. Nnaemeka, the protagonist, is engaged with Nene, a teacher in the modern city of Lagos, which is beyond the traditional marriage custom that he was raised in back in the village. Disclosing the engagement to his traditionalist father, Okeke, Nnaemeka found him to be unsupportive. Okeke including others expressed their disapproval of the modern marriage Naemeka has self-imposed, demonstrating how many view modernization with prejudice. There were proposals from the people of Ibo that he must take herbs called Amalie from the native doctor to restore his “diseased” mind that has deviated from the traditional customs of marrying another Ibo woman. Even the women in the modern city of Lagos had ostracized and discriminated against Nene. Okeke has completely estranged himself from the two including his unsuspecting grandsons. However, the conflict between modernity and tradition was not futile since more people began to recognize it… including Okeke who realized his missed opportunities with his grandsons. This change illustrates that beyond the influence of modernization—negative and positive —and the stark differences between modern and traditional culture, it can still bring mutual understanding and acceptance. Moreover, the traditional gender roles depicted in the story are confronted when modern ideas are introduced to strong believers of traditional cultures. In the last scene, Okeke was conflicted since to accept the grandsons, which further signifies his acceptance toward the wife who does not act in accordance with the traditional gender role by being a teacher as Okeke protested previously, “…no Christian woman should teach…women should keep silence,” (Achebe, 156). However, there was an unforeseen change of attitude that led to him regretting his continuous sternness, depicting how modernization can affect gender roles to great extent in traditional cultures.

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Short Story Analysis: ‘Marriage is a Private Affair’ by Chinua Achebe. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
“Short Story Analysis: ‘Marriage is a Private Affair’ by Chinua Achebe.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
Short Story Analysis: ‘Marriage is a Private Affair’ by Chinua Achebe. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2023].
Short Story Analysis: ‘Marriage is a Private Affair’ by Chinua Achebe [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2023 Dec 2]. Available from:
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