No Longer At Ease
How we cite our quotes:
"Yes," said Obi. "Many black men who go t the white man's country marry their women."
"You hear?" asked Matthew. "I tell you I have seen it with my own two eyes in Onitsha. The woman even had two children. But what happened in the end? She left those children and went back to her country. That is why I say a black man who marries a white woman wastes his time. Her stay with him is like the stay of the moon in the sky. When the time comes, she will go."
"Very true," said another man who had also traveled. "It is not her going away that matters. It is her turning the man's face away from his kinsmen while she stays." (5.96-98)
The men of Umuofia indicate that the problem with a son of Umuofia marrying a woman from another culture is that she divides the son from his family. Marriage, in Igbo culture, is something that the families must agree upon. Furthermore, marriage should not divide a son from his parents.
"I can't marry you," she said suddenly…
"I don't understand you, Clara." And he really didn't. Was this woman's game to bind him more firmly? But Clara was not like that; she had no coyness in her….
"Why can't you marry me?" He succeeded in sounding unruffled. For answer she threw herself at him and began to weep violently on his shoulder.
"What the matter, Clara? Tell me." He was no longer unruffled. There was a hint of tears in his voice.
"I am an osu," she wept. Silence. She stopped weeping and quietly disengaged herself form him. Still he said nothing.
"So you see we cannot get married," she said, quite firmly, almost gaily—a terrible kind of gaiety. Only the tears showed she had wept.
"Nonsense!" said Obi. He shouted it almost, as if by shouting it now he could wipe away those seconds of silence, when everything had seemed to stop, waiting in vain for him to speak. (7.58-64)
In the first of many scenes where Clara tells Obi she cannot marry him, she admits her status as part of a forbidden caste. And though Obi is quick to say that it doesn't matter, the few seconds of silence indicate that it does matter. He may want to throw off some of the more inconvenient parts of his culture, but he knows that his friends and family will not be so accommodating.
"I am going to marry her," Obi said.
"What?" Joseph sat up in bed.
"I am going to marry her."
"Look at me," said Joseph…"You know book, but this is no matter for book. Do you know what an osu is? But how can you know?" In that short question he said in effect that Obi's mission-house upbringing and European education had made him a stranger in his country—the most painful thing one could say to Obi.
I know more about it than yourself," he said, "and I'm going to marry the girl. I wasn't actually seeking your approval." (7.67-71)
Obi decides to go completely against his culture's norms, traditions, and values by marrying Clara. Obi bristles when Joseph claims he must be ignorant of those customs and values. And he's not ignorant of those values, but the tradition of an untouchable caste is something he feels should be destroyed. Should his identity as an African be called into question simply because he recognizes that a certain cultural value is wrong?