The Arrangers of Marriage by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In The Arrangers of Marriage by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie we have the theme of marriage, control, change, independence and language. Taken from her The Thing Around Your Neck collection the story is narrated in the first person by a woman (girl) called Chinaza (Agatha) and after reading the story the reader realizes that Chinaza has no control when it comes to her arranged marriage. Ofodile (or Dave) throughout the story controls what Chinaza does and how she acts. He tells her where to do the groceries what to wear and generally takes control of every aspect of Chinaza’s life. What is interesting is that Chinaza allows for Ofodile to take control of her life viewing herself, on the instruction of Aunty Ada, that she is lucky to be married to a doctor that lives in America. If anything Chinaza in Aunty Ada’s eyes has opportunities she would not have in Nigeria. If anything Aunty Ada and Uncle Ike are stuck in the viewpoint that an arranged marriage is traditional and as such is positive for the woman. This is unlike Chinaza who wanted to go to university to study rather than get married but because she didn’t want to be seen as ungrateful she agreed to marry Ofodile.
The theme of change is self-evident in the story with there being a lot of things that change for Chinaza. She has to learn to speak like Americans (language), something that is alien to her but she obliges Ofodile in order to keep the peace. It is also noticeable that everything Nigerian about Chinaza is being removed by Ofodile who himself has changed completely to adapt to life in America. Simple things like the names of things like lift (elevator), biscuits (cookies) and jug (pitcher) become a hindrance for Chinaza as she is putting the spotlight on the fact that she is a foreigner. Something that displeases Ofodile.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The blue Burton’s Rich Tea package can be seen to represent home for Chinaza. It is the only packaging that she knows having seen it at home and also bought the biscuits in Nigeria. Nia who acts as a beneficial or enabling character to Chinaza can be seen to represent freedom and independence. She is not reliant on a man nor is she dependent on one. She is also a business owner who is proud of her African heritage, as Chinaza would like to be. The love making or rather the sex that Ofodile has with Chinaza on two occasions can also be seen as Ofodile controlling Chinaza. If anything he is not a generous lover and is thinking only of himself and his own satisfaction. The seeds and spices that Chinaza brings with her from home are also important as they symbolize Nigeria for Chinaza. The fact that one of them is taken by the customs officer suggests that Chinaza is losing a part of herself. Just as she is by having to change the language she is using.
The end of the story is interesting as Chinaza is beginning, through the anger of knowing Ofodile was previously married, to reclaim her life. She may not have permanently left Ofodile but she is in the process of leaving him. It will only be a matter of time before she divorces him and starts her life afresh. Here is where Nia plays an important role. She is supportive of Chinaza’s actions but also knows that change and divorce will take time. Nonetheless Chinaza has made up her mind that she will resurrect her life and live with someone she really knows and loves. The fact that Chinaza only took the clothes she had on arrival from Nigeria when she first decides to leave Ofodile is significant as it looks like Chinaza is partially beginning to reclaim her life. Again she will be assisted by Nia a proud African-American.