Nene Atang is the young fiance´ e and later wife of Nnaemeka. She is a Christian, and she teaches at a girls’ school in Lagos, a city she has lived in for her entire life. Nnaemeka tells his father she is from Calabar, which is a city in southeastern Nigeria. Perhaps he means that her family is originally from Calabar. Because she is a city girl born and bred, Nene knows nothing about the tribal life in rural areas of the country. She is therefore very surprised when she hears that Nnaemeka’s father will object to her marriage because she is not an Ibo. She is modern in her views and cannot believe that such a distinction matters to people any more.
Nene is a charming young woman who is liked by everyone she meets. She appears to be the ideal wife. Nnaemeka is confident that she will win his father over if he will only agree to meet with her, and after she and Nnaemeka are married, the Ibos in Lagos soon overcome their prejudice toward her. They even admit that she is better at keeping house than they are. Finally, it is Nene who is instrumental in resolving the quarrel between her husband and his father. This happens when she writes to her father-in-law begging him to see his two grandchildren. She shows herself to be a woman who not only values keeping the family together but has the persuasive powers to make this happen under very difficult circumstances.
Madbogwu is one of the men in the small village where Okeke lives. He is described as a practical man, and it is he who suggests that Okeke consult an herbalist about his son. Madbogwu is convinced that a dose of amalile will be effective. This is the medicine that is prescribed for women who want to win back the affection of their husbands.
Nnaemeka is a young man who originally came from a small village in the country but now lives in Lagos. His profession is not stated, but he appears to be an educated man, so he may be a member of the Nigerian civil service.
Nnaemeka appears to be a level-headed, courteous, considerate young man. He has chosen his bride well, as far as her personal qualities are concerned, but he also is under no illusions that his father will approve of his choice. No doubt since he started to live in Lagos, he has taken on the more modern ways of thinking. In a cosmopolitan city (that is, one with people from all over the world), people of all backgrounds tend to mix freely, but this is not so in the village he comes from. Nnaemeka does not want to upset his father, which is why he waits until he can see him in person before breaking the news of his engagement to a non-Ibo girl. Although he is courteous and respectful to his father, and the two men are fond of each other, Nnaemeka also shows that he has a strong will of his own. He is determined to marry Nene, and he tells his father the truth, even though he fears that his father will be angry about it. He also sticks to his guns, resisting all his father’s efforts to convince him not to marry her. Nnaemeka is a man who knows his own mind and acts according to his affections and his convictions, rather than the customs of the past. The quarrel with his father upsets him, but he hopes, despite all indications to the contrary, that his father will eventually forgive him for marrying against his will.
Ugoye Nweke does not appear directly in the story, but she is the young woman who is selected by Okeke and his neighbor as a suitable wife for Nnaemeka. Ugoye has had enough schooling to make her a good wife, in Okeke’s view, but not so much education that she might have opinions of her own.
Okeke is Nnaemeka’s father. He lives in a small village and thinks in a very traditional, conservative way. He believes that things should be done the way they have always been done; the old customs should be observed. This means that he cannot give his permission for his son to marry a non-Ibo girl, because this is something the Ibos in his village never do. They always marry amongst themselves. Okeke is a stubborn man, and he sticks to his position even though it means that he becomes estranged from his son, of whom he is very fond. However, Okeke is a devout Christian who believes that he has religion on his side. He does not approve of the fact that his son’s fiance´ e is a schoolteacher. He believes that women should not teach, and he finds support for that position in the Bible. It is a subject he feels strongly about, and he leaves his son in no doubt about his views. He and the other men in the village do not think a girl’s education is very important. She should acquire only the knowledge she will need to become a good wife. Okeke is set in his ways and cannot entertain new ways of thinking, even when his son is involved. He takes his objections to extreme lengths, refusing to talk to his son and rejecting his son’s wife completely. Although he firmly believes that he is right, and Nnaemeka says his father is basically a good-natured man, his behavior seems unreasonable and cruel. Eventually, as a result of Nene’s request to allow his grandsons to visit him, he softens his attitude and is filled with remorse over his past behavior.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 30, Chinua Achebe, Published by Gale Group, 2010