No Longer At Ease
How we cite our quotes:
"Today we send you [Obi] to bring knowledge. Remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I have heard of young men from other towns who went to the white man's country, but instead of facing their studies they went after the sweet things of the flesh. Some of them even married white women." The crowd murmured its strong disapproval of such behavior. "A man who does that is lost to his people. He is like rain wasted in the forest. I should have suggested getting you a wife before you leave. Bu the time is too short now. Anyway, I know that we have no fear where you are concerned. We are sending you to learn book. Enjoyment can wait. Do not be in a hurry to rush into the pleasures of the world like the young antelope who danced herself lame when the main dance was yet to come." (1.48)
Before Obi leaves for England, his elders caution him against sex and wild ways, wishing that he was already married. They hope he won't come back with a white wife. Although there is no mention of osus in this passage, we are given a clear picture of certain marriages as taboo.
"When you have paid a hundred and thirty pounds bride-price and you are only a second-class clerk, you find you haven't got any more to spare on other women."
"You mean you paid a hundred and thirty? What about the bride-price law?"
"It pushed up the price, that's all."
"It's a pity my three elder sisters got married too early for us to make money on them. We'll try and make up on the others."
"It's no laughing matter," said Joseph. "Wait until you want to marry. They will probably ask you to pay five hundred, seeing that you are in the senior service."
"….I'm not paying five hundred pounds for a wife. I shall not even pay one hundred, not even fifty."
"You are not serious," said Joseph. "Unless you are going to be a Reverend Father." (5.25-31)
Joseph and Obi discuss marriage traditions in Nigeria. Marriage is seen as an exchange of money or goods from the groom's family to the bride's family. This tradition represents an agreement between families, and transfers the reproductive capacities of the woman to the husband's family so that children are considered part of his lineage rather than the lineage of the bride's family. Obi dismisses the tradition, indicating he has no intend to honor it, but Joseph lets him know that means he will never get married. He might as well be a priest.
Why did Clara insist that he must not tell his people about her yet? Could it be that she had not quite made up her mind to marry him? That could hardly be. She was as anxious as himself to be formally engaged, only she said he should not go to the expense of buying a ring until he had got a job. Perhaps she wanted to tell her people first. But if so, why all the mystery? Why had she not simply said that she was going to consult her people? Or maybe she was not as guileless as he had assumed and was using this suspense to bind him more strongly to her. Obi examined each possibility in turn and rejected it. (5.46)
Obi is anxious to tell his parents that he has found a woman to be his wife and the mother of his children. But Clara is hiding something, and it is only a matter of time before he finds out why she isn't eager for him to tell his parents about her. This is our first inclination that not all is well. Although Obi is aware something is wrong, he can't believe anything too negative about his beloved.