Title of Book: The Bride Price
Author: Buchi Emecheta
Year of Publication: 1986
Reviewer: Halima Sayyadi
According to Williams Shakespeare “Love is too young to know what conscience is.” It is scary to realize that love can’t be killed or least of all zombified. That, no matter how archaic or civilized it tastes, you chew and swallow it insanely. Bride Price is a book of 13 chapters with a total of 22 characters. The book is set in Igbo land. The author did a great job to have penned down her thoughts by creating a contrast between love and tradition amidst other sub-motifs.
In Ibuza village, seven miles away from Asaba, Women are considered real assets owned by their fathers. Fathers who owned educated daughters had phenomenal prices as dowries. Conversely, fathers who owned uneducated daughters, had awful prices as dowries. Akunna whose name means father’s wealth isn’t an exception to this trend as a native of Ibuza who lived in Lagos alongside her younger brother Nnado and her father, Ezekiel Odia. As for her mother, MA Blackie, she had gone in search of fruit of womb from the river goddess at Ibuza, after several attempts made by the native doctors in Lagos.
Until her father’s death, she was hell-bent on marrying a wealthy man as that was the reason her father had named her Akunna. In this present time, mourning is mundanely amongst other ill-talk that comes with it. Akunna had to dry the subtle ocean in her eyes while singing all the nice things her late father had done. It is encouraged that they cry more than the boys. To show how creative mourning could be, there are also professional mourners that are paid to mourn the deceased. After Ezekiel’s funeral, MA Blackie returned to find her home homeless and had to return to Ibuza alongside her kids to be inherited by Okonkwo, Ezekiel’s elder brother who already had three wives.
Love is one paranormal thing that moves swiftly into the heart without the consent of the brain. It is so humane particularly, if it’s unadulterated. Ibuza opened Akunna’s eyes to how calm and noisy love could be. She fell in love with an “educated” slave, Chike Ofelue, which is against the tradition of Ibuza land. When western education walked in, the free-borns of Ibuza land felt it was far below their standard and was meant for slaves. Therefore, they got their slaves educated. The conflict is then between genuine love and a strict tradition. Chike Ofelue in his nineteenths is a school teacher from an influential family (those considered slaves) and he teaches in Akunna’s new school.
Akunna is allowed to school till she becomes a woman afterwards. Then she can be married off to a man who could afford two hundred pounds as a bride price that would sponsor Okonkwo’s quest to become the village chief. Akunna became a woman under Chike’s eyes. She didn’t tell her mother about it, she got to know after Ogugua her cousin sister saw the stain and told MA Blackie. It became known and suitors flooded in, including Okoboshi who kidnapped Akunna and married her. The tradition of Ibuza is such that a woman belongs to a man who has a strand of her hair. In times like that the family of the bride has their lips sealed. While in Okoboshi’s house, Chike sent a letter to Akunna via her younger brother telling her how he would come to her rescue and elope with her. He succeeded in doing that. He took her to Ughelli where Chike’s friend, Ben Adegbor resides and works as a head teacher. He had also gotten a job for Chike in an oil company and promised to get Akunna a teaching job in his school. He also gave them his old hut till they are able to get a better apartment.
Before Chike left home for Ughelli, Chile’s father, gifted him a hundred pounds which was used in furnishing the old hot including a bed christened ‘Joy’. Back home, Okonkwo was damned sad that, his aspirations didn’t come to pass. He moulded a doll that looked like Akunna and pierced a sewing needle through its heart (a traditional way of killing a person gradually). MA Blackie found it and destroyed it. Both Chike and Akunna sent her a secret message to let Nnanndo live with them and the Ofulue’s would send her two pounds monthly which made her independent. Okonkwo still made another one which includes calling her name to come back home. She would hear her name being called several times but would refuse to answer even while she was pregnant.
In the end, she died while giving birth to her child. She appealed the child be christened ‘Joy’. In present times, the conflict is no longer between love and tradition but, money. And, the substance of slavery, which is visible in today’s Nigeria, isn’t the one in the story, but that, which is also connected to money. Where money decides who is a slave or not. Whether archaic or modern, sham or real, your lips should be able to emit money.
While there is a feminist tendency in the novella considering how patriarchy lords over the destinies of women, Akunna was able to break away by eloping with the love of her life. The issue of female subjugation is still rife in our contemporary world and daily efforts must be made to overturn it so that women too can reach their full potentials. In conclusion, the novel is a book that carries one through the absolute commitment to love and the need for freedom from preposterous traditional practices against women.
Halima Sayyadi; a level 300 student of Law, Bayero University, Kano and a Spoken Word artist, represented Niger state at the President schools’ debate championship several times at Abuja. She attended workshops and seminars organized by MSSN, Minna Area Council, and Niger State Area Unit, respectively. She represented Nigeria in the Nigeria-Singapore Debate Competition for Secondary Schools (2016) held at Singapore. She was awarded the Best Female Student of 2015 at Army Day Secondary School, Minna. She is a member of the Hill-top Creative Arts Foundation.