Comparison of The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde and Marriage is a Private Affair by Chinua Achebe

Marriage traditions are very different throughout the world. In some cultures, parents traditionally choose mates and arrange marriages of their children. In others cultures, children are allowed to choose for themselves and follow their hearts rather than obey to the duties of the community they grew in. In his short story Marriage is a Private Affair, Chinua Achebe discusses the themes of love, marriage and duty. The fact that the story goes on in Africa, the continent that is known for its diversity in traditions, causes many conflicts and thus sharpens the controversies within the themes chosen by the author. In The Importance of Being Ernest, Oscar Wilde seeks for connections between falling in love and getting married. Marriage is of truly great importance in Wilde’s play, both as a subject for philosophical debate and as a primary force that motivates the plot. In spite of the fact that both The Importance of Being Ernest and Marriage is a Private Affair raise the same questions such as whether marriage is a restrictive or pleasurable social duty and the power of love to initiate it, the ways Wilde and Achebe approach the issue differ.

In their masterpieces, both Wild and Achebe state that marriage is a pleasurable social duty if it is initiated by a love affair. In Marriage is a Private Affair, Chinua Achebe illuminates the controversies about viewing marriage and love affair that exist among the members of the same family as well as the culture group. As old traditions continue to govern life of a great number of people in Africa, the conflict between generations grows. New generations who are no more afraid to take responsibility for their own choices do not want their parents to play a decisive role in choosing husbands and wives for them. The parents point of view that it is their duty to decide what would be better for their children can be explained by their sharpened feeling of responsibility. That is why rational calculation seem to be more trustworthy than such an unstable state as love affair. One of the main characters, Naemeka has moved from the Igbo tribe to the city of Lagos and went against the rules of his tribe by falling in love with a woman from the city and making a decision to marry her. Naemeka’s father believes that marriages should be arranged by the heads of the families as well as that young people should not marry outside of their tribe. However, it is against Naemeka’s father’s will as he has arranged Ugoye Nweke for his son to marry. In spite of knowing that his father will never approve his marriage, Naemeka breaks the rules and marries the woman is in love with. What is most impressing is the fact that for next years, Naemeka is visiting his father to ask for forgiveness for that he marrying the woman he loves. Despite that the father is sure that his son’s marriage is a horrible mistake, in the end love wins. The main character ends up having a life he dreamt of and having a hope to be forgiven for daring to go against emotionless rules.

In contrast, some of Wilde’s characters follow emotionless rules of their society for some time, however, they change their minds later. In The Importance of Being Ernest, Wilde raises the question of the nature of marriage for the first time in the dialogue between Lane and Algernon, and from this time the subject constantly appears as the play goes on. The author touches the issues of the nature of marriage un the brief dispute between Algernon and Jack about whether a proposal of marriage is a matter of business or pleasure. Lane stands out for his point of view that marriage is a pleasant state even in spite of admitting that his presumably ended marriage was just the result of misunderstanding. Algernon’s views of marriage and love are cynical until the moment he falls in love with Cecily. In contrast, Jack speaks like the true romantic.Thus, summing up, the representatives of older generation think of marriage and love as a means that should come to an end. In old Victorian society, marriage is only a way of maintaining or bettering one’s social position but not a culmination or result of being in love.

In old Victorian society, a man was supposed to submit to such an interrogation as to state his name, rank and income to the family of a woman he wanted to get married. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde demonstrates his own notion of romance that is different from the one of real love. In the following play a decidedly old definition of love can be found. For instance, in The Importance of Being Earnest, both female and male physical beauty can sustain as well as initiate a love affair. Wilde views forgiveness as a love ingredient. Both female characters of the play forgive the men for their previous deceptions at the moment they find the good intentions behind the crimes. Thus, the definition of love in The Importance of Being Earnest, is not so self-sacrificing love, however, an attitude of good intentions, in general, as well as honest affection and admiration.

Despite the fact that The Importance of Being Ernest and Marriage is a Private Affair raise similar questions of marriage and love, the ways the authors approach the issue are different. Achebe’s characters are initially against the emotionless notion that marriage is a strict social duty, and some of Wilde’s ones change their minds during the play. Both authors state that marriage should be initiated by love affair in spite of all the difficulties or dangers it can bring rather than business to maintain one’s social rank no matter within an Ibo tribe or Victorian London.