The Bride Price Summary

Buchi Emecheta

The Bride Price

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The Bride Price Summary

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The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta begins in Nigeria—specifically, in Lagos. The events, which move quickly at first, center around the Odia family. Ezekiel and Ma Blackie, the father and mother, have two children: Nna-nndo, a son, and Aku-nna, a daughter. Aku-nna is the protagonist of The Bride Price. Though the story begins in an urban center, it follows the Odio family as they relocate to their ancestral village.

Ezekiel is dying, though he does not tell Ma Blackie or their children. He waits until Ma Blackie is away in Ibuza, a country village, before he says farewell to his children. In Nigeria at the time, a family without a father had little to no means to support itself. In fact, the family would be considered nonexistent without Ezekiel. Even Nna-nndo’s name serves as a reminder of this notion, as it translates in English to “father is the shelter.”

Ezekiel’s death leads Ma Blackie to take her children from the city and return to an agrarian lifestyle. Emecheta tells the reader about this transition, as well as important background information, such as the bride price. Emecheta explains that Aku-nna translates to “father’s wealth,” which reflects a woman’s role in Nigerian society. The interaction between Nigerian and British customs is also highlighted early on as a crucial theme.

A woman’s worth is not reliant solely on a bride price, though that is an important source of income for any Nigerian family, as Emecheta explains. Once she is married, the children she is meant to bear her husband are considered her contribution to the family’s wealth and well being. Culturally, it is best if she has sons, but daughters represent the potential to receive a bride price someday, and so are considered a source of wealth, too.

When Aku-nna’s father dies, her relatives arrive, and she defers to her aunts and uncles for decisions regarding her father’s funeral rites. Though she is curious about his passing, she does not ask about it because good children are expected not to be inquisitive. She knows that through storytelling she will eventually find out what happened to her father. Emecheta uses Ezekiel’s funeral as an opportunity to explain how the Ibo people of Nigeria incorporate both their traditional beliefs and the Christian ideas of heaven and hell, for fear of offending any deities.

When Ma Blackie returns to Lagos, she knows she cannot stay in the cityas a widow. She prepares to move with her children back to Ibuza. There, Okonkwo, Ezekiel’s brother, takes in Ma Blackie and her two children. Ma Blackie eventually marries Okonkwo, becoming one of his many wives. Whatever bride price Aku-nna attracts will now go to Okonkwo. His ambitions lead him to want more money, because with that wealth, he can claim the title of Obi.

Aku-nna meets ChikeOfulue, her future husband and her soon-to-be teacher. However, friendship—let alone a match—between them is forbidden because Chike’s ancestors were slaves. Such a connection would, according to tradition, taint not only Aku-nna, but also Okonkwo’s whole family. The adults in her life warn her about getting close to Chike, which only makes her want to get close to him more. Aku-nna feels alone, isolated—and so turns to Chike, who feels the urge to protect her, especially once she experiences her first menstruation, because that means she is old enough to marry. He knows that young men and their fathers will begin offering a bride price to Okonkwo. Chike’s protection becomes aggressive when he fights Okoboshi. In retaliation, Okoboshi’s family kidnaps Aku-nna. This is considered an acceptable way to make a woman become a man’s wife.

When Okoboshi attempts to rape Aku-nna, she tells him that she has already slept with Chike, outwitting him. The lie angers Okoboshi enough that he doesnot even bother to test her on her story. Aku-nna manages to escape Okoboshi’s family, with the help of Chike and Nna-nndo.

At the end of the story, Aku-nna and Chike live together outside of the village. They have a furnished house and each of them work in jobs they find rewarding. Soon, Aku-nna is pregnant. Despite their happiness though, not all is well in their lives. Okonkwo refuses to accept the bride price offered by Chike’s father, despite his several attempts, all generous. This, according to tribal tradition, means that Aku-nna will be cursed and die in childbirth. Unable to turn her back on her people’s traditions completely, Aku-nna becomes certain that she will only be free through her death.

For Buchi Emecheta, men’s subjugation of women is a recurring theme. She has not only witnessed such subjugation second-hand, but first-hand as well. Her own husband burned her first manuscript for The Bride Price, so she had to rewrite it. The Bride Price is one of eleven novels by Emecheta, who has also written plays, children’s books, and an autobiography.