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Igbo Marriage Culture
Transcript of Igbo Marriage Culture
Monogamy in Western
Religiously speaking, this illegality of polygamy is morally wrong, as usual, people in western are guided by their religion, especially Christian, that is not allow polygamy in marriage. According to christians, polygamy is adultery. Men and their wives were put to death for having polygamous marriages.
Through the lens of psychologists, they argue that women do not want to share their lover. Possessiveness plays a big role in monogamy's value. Polygamy leads to jealousy and tension in the house. Thus, monogamy ensures happiness.
In Igbo, marriage served to bring households, lineages, and even towns together. Discussions leading to marriage are taken seriously, and they involved not just the immediate families of the bride and groom, but also the entire lineages (Achebe, xxx). The Igbo values children highly, as it is the central point in their stage of life. Thus, marriage was a requisite first step towards bringing them into the world.
Polygamy in Things Fall Apart
A wealthy man described in Things Fall Apart, has nine wives and thirty children (14). Also, Okonkwo has three wives and eight children (6).
Polygamy is not only demonstrated in
Things Fall Apart
but also in the Igbo culture.
Polygamy is not something that Western culture is accepted to. From youth, western countries like America, teaches students monogamy, as opposed to polygamy, is the proper, accepted form of marriage.
Monogamy often symbolizes faithful and trust to your partner. In Western culture, having more than one partner in a marriage is often cause for divorce; however, in Umoufia it is practiced and even encouraged by most of it's people.
Among the Igbos, polygamy is adopted for economic and social, and for sexual and other reasons. In the past, it was the normal ambition of every family-head, to continue to add to the number of his wives throughout his life. The man needed many hands so as to cope with the work in his farms. Women themselves are generally very good at farm work. A wife does not only help but within some few years, her children will join the team. Thus, having children in the household is important to the family.
Polygamy and Okonkwo
Polygamy refers to having more than one spouse at a time. In Igbo society, polygamy is promoted. The childlessness of the first wife is not the only reason men in Igbo culture in marring more than one wife; instead, the size of a household is crucial in providing enough labor. Realizing that monogamy is a sure avenue to poverty, most husbands practiced polygamy.
To Okonkwo and many of the Igbos, having several women in a household enhanced a man's status. Usually, wealth is also determined by how many wives a man have. A great number of wives shows that the man is rich because it shows that he is able to support and feed all of them. Onkonkwo has three wives in total, therefore, he is considered as a wealthy farmer.
Usually, the first wife is the oldest woman and the most respected wife in the family. For example, the first wife must be the one to drink first if the husband offers the wives. They would even wait for her to come and drink it if she was not there when they were about to drink it. The first wife is also the only one allowed to wear an anklet to represent her husband's titles. The other wives would not be allowed to wear this. This is because the husband chose to marry her first, and so she important to him (14).
More About Polygamy
Although polygamy is acceptable in Igbo culture, but man will likely to treat his wives badly or brutally in such culture. Like Okonkwo in
Things Fall Apart,
he treats his youngest wife badly, as stated in the novel: "His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper" (12).
In another occasion, Okonkwo beat his youngest wife heavily during the Week of Peace (21). In the Igbo world, men are the dominant sex and they “rule” over their families, including their wives. Women are relegated to a more or less servile position, often living in fear of their husbands. Though Okonkwo’s quick temper with his family is never portrayed as admirable, he unquestionably has the right to be aggressive at home.
"Information regarding Polygamy History and Modern Polygamy." Is Polygamy Illegal? 2013. Web. 11 May 2015.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Random House, 1994.
"Bridewealth | Marriage Custom." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 4 Apr. 2014. Web. 19 May 2015.
Monogamy refers to having one spouse at a time. In the West polygamy, the marriage to more than one person, is often illegal. The crime is called bigamy. In Canada the polygamy is illegal thanks to the Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada and the bigamy is banned at Section 290. Likewise, in United States the polygamy represents an illegal practice in all 50 states.
In Western culture, many choose a certain social system developed to organize the relationship between partners, for safer, deeper pleasure and less damage: they choose monogamy. Marry only to one spouse is deemed legal and faithful in western countries like Canada and the United States.
However, due to the absence of mechanization, polygamy is needed to increase the size of the household for farming and harvesting.Therefore, Igbo culture allows polygamy in action.
The Culture Differences Behind Every
Marriage Rings & Vows
Bride price ritual refers to the ritual in which a price is determined for which the bride’s family must pay to the groom’s family in regards to the bride’s hand in marriage(Encyclopedia Britannica.com). The novel
Things Fall Apart
illustrates such ritual in the Igbo culture as presented by the characters. In Chapter 8, Okonkwo takes part in a discussion of the bride-price with the suitor of Obierika's daughter (49). Her price is negotiated between the bride's family and the groom's relatives by passing back and forth quantities of sticks that represent numbers (51). The bride price is determined before the wedding takes place. Also, the bride price signifies the women's value in the marriage.
Likewise in the western culture, a proposal usually be made prior to the wedding between the groom-to-be and bride-to-be. In this case, a ring will be placed on the finger of the bride-to-be in order to mark the agreement of the marriage.
Before the wedding....
By Danielle Cheung