Buchi Emecheta is a Nigerian author. The Bride Price is her first novel.
The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta
The Bride Price is the first novel written by Buchi Emechata. Rewritten and published in 1976 after the original copy was burnt by the abusive author’s husband, whom she later divorced. Emechata dedicated the book to her mother, Alice Emecheta, who provided her emotional support through her thick and thin days. The novel explores the themes of feminism and colonialism, which led to the birth of a new culture in Nigeria due to the co-mingling of the British and Nigerians.
The story unfolds in the urban area of Nigeria, Lagos, about the Odia family, who are originally from Ibusa in the present-day Delta State. Ezekiel and Ma Blackie have two children from their marriage: Nna-nndo, the son, and Akunna, the daughter.
At this time in Nigeria, especially in the Igbo tradition, a family without a father is not regarded. The family is considered nonexistent. This could be seen in the name of Ezekiel’s son, Nna-nndo, which Emecheta lets readers know means the “father’s shelter” in the Igbo dialect spoken in Ibuza. This tradition makes his family wish he stays by their side until Nna grows into a man.
However, he had been sick before Ma Blackie left Lagos for Ibuza, a countryside, to perform a fertility test. Ezekiel conceals the state of his health to his wife and children, but as his health deteriorates more, he makes up his mind to reveal it to his two children since Ma Blackie was away.
On the third week of being sick, he passed away, leaving his family for the lead of Ma Blackie, who chose to relocate the family to Ibuza, where she started an agrarian lifestyle, which she was unaccustomed to.
Emecheta draws the readers’ attention to the importance of bride prices in the Igbo culture. She uses the medium to dissect the roles of women in her Igbo tradition. Akunna means ‘father’s wealth and this, as well reflects the roles of women in Igbo society. Bride price is a source of wealth. As the female children mature into adulthood, the father or family does anticipate a suitor who would marry and pay the bride price for the female children, which would be a source of wealth to the family.
However, women’s role is not only harnessed to bride price as the Emecheta wants the audience to understand. Women who procreate, especially male children, although female children are valued due to the fortune they attract to the family, are applauded for their contribution to the family.
After the burial of Ezekiel, Okonkwo, the immediate brother to Ezekiel, adds Ma Blackie to the list of his wives. Okonkwo, who hopes to take up a new title in the community begins to expect a bride price from Akunna.
Ma Blackie has been spending money on her two children to ensure they attain education, unlike her co-wives. Unlike them, she comes to Ibusa with some money, which she uses to take care of her children. Akunna is at school in the village. She hopes to graduate soon and become a teacher and have another means of generating income outside the traditional bride price.
She has begun to attract attention from boys all over, although she’s yet to mensurate. That doesn’t noodle her, notwithstanding. She begins to nurture affectionate feelings toward her teacher, Chike, instead, and Chike does reciprocate by being passionate about her.
However, Chike’s background tends to be a block to their relationship. Chike descends from a slave background. In the early years of colonialism, the Igbos did send only their slaves to learn the white men’s language to protect theirs, resulting in the domination of prominent positions by the descendants of slaves. Despite this, the Igbos still refused to embrace the slave descendants, and Emechata tries to comment on it here.
Chike’s slave heritage is ominous, and their marriage is unlikely. Their relationship would certainly, be infamous if it becomes open. In the Igbo tradition, such marriage is abominable and would tarnish the image of such a prominent figure as Okonkwo if it becomes open. When Akunna mensurates for the first time, which signifies her dueness for a marital hood, she conceals it from people to avert drawing a plethora of attention from boys and getting closer to Chike instead.
Soon after she reveals she has had her first mensuration and she’s now engaged to Chike, the adults surrounding her began to tell her about the dangers of marrying a slave descendant, making her feel lonely and helpless more. She leans on Chike, who now protects her from the aggressive men, especially Okoboshi, trying to court her. It’s glaring that Okonkwo is unready to accept the bride price from Chike Ofolue, despite him coming from an affluent family and being ready to offer a generous bride price for Akunna.
After Akunna learns she’s passed the examination that would enable her to work as a teacher, she joins her peers one night to practice a dance for the upcoming Christmas event. There, she was kidnapped by Okoboshi’s men. Okoboshi desperately wanted to marry her and save her from marrying a slave descendant.
Kidnapping a girl is another means of marrying her in the Ibusa Igbo tradition. In the end, when Okoboshi wants to rape Akunna, she reveals to Okoboshi that Chike has deflowered her, making him forbid her. The next day, the news of her made-up act spreads throughout the village. She escapes with the help of Chike to Ugheli, where both work and earn generous incomes.
They marry and have a blissful life in Ugheli, although they live with the guilt of not paying the bride price. Okonkwo continues to reject the generous bride price from Chike’s father and goes an extra length to divorce Ma Blackie.
Akunna heavily worries about her fertility since Okonkwo rejects her bride price, but the doctor working for the oil company where Chike works has confirmed she’s fertile and fit to have a baby. She finally gets pregnant, but unfortunately, she dies during childbirth in the hospital.