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A Comparison Of Generational Conflicts In The Kiss And Marriage Is A Private Affair

2417 words - 10 pages

Generational Conflicts in The Kiss and Marriage Is a Private Affair

      As a family's lineage develops, there may be apparent differences in the way of thinking, attitude, and devotion to tradition between the generations. These differences or developments can either build up friction between generations, or in some cases ultimately heal the discord between other generations. Both Julia Alvarez's contemporary short story, "The Kiss," and Chinua Achebe's classic "Marriage Is a Private Affair" reveal the conflict that can erupt when one generation of a family diverges from its traditional or family values.  Both accounts display differences in the way of thinking of the conflicting parties and touch upon the aspect of healing their generation gap by offering some kind of appeasement.


There is the major theme portrayed in both stories. In each, there is a forbidden marriage that comes about as a result of children disagreeing with and hence rebelling against the traditional customs or values of their family. The major protagonist in each account coincidentally is the father who goes to great extents to estrange the rebellious offspring. Despite the fact that each story is written within a different era and culture, they both exhibit the dominant male figure as the family head, with very little or no input on what is right for the family from any other member. The paternal figures are strongly opinionated and do not waver from what they believe should be the proper behavior of their children, resulting in conflicts between Papi and Sofia, and Okeke and Nnaemeka.


Foreshadowing of the main conflict in "The Kiss" is evident when Papi cautions his daughters by exclaiming, "I do not want loose women in my family"(Alvarez 491). This hints that that would be the reason for his falling out with his daughter, Sofia. As the story unravels not only does Sofia take off to NewYork to have sex with her boyfriend, but she also runs off and gets married without her father's consent. Also, in Achebe's story,  foreshadowing surfaces in the first couple of sentences. Nnaemeka tries to explain to his fiancé, Nene, that it would be better for him to break the news of his engagement to his father in person rather than by letter. His tone gives the impression that his father, Okeke, would not approve of his decision. Later on in the story, the readers understand  how adamant Okeke is about Nnaemeka marrying a woman chosen for him from their cultural background.


So, the conflict that develops in each story seems to be a direct result of the divergence in the way of thinking of the protagonists from their parents, especially their fathers. In "Marriage Is a Private Affair," Nnameka believes that he should fall in love before he gets married. He believes that love knows no boundaries; therefore, tribe and culture should not play a part in choosing his wife. This concept is too modern for his father...

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