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Citizen Weekly

Friday, 20 March 2015


An intellectual friend of mine whom I really respect shocked me recently by dropping a bombshell. He told me, after a glass of wine at a sports club in Kakamega, that of all the things God created; it is only human beings that marry. “Other animals fornicate the rest of their lives,” he intoned. As usual, such talk is punctuated with laughter. But as it is my habit, I reflected on this matter much later. I just realised that some statements, however weird, carry universal truth. Indeed, while we share many things with animals, marriage is not one of them. But I also know that marriage is one of the institutions in a crisis. Is it because it is an artificial arrangement by humans? No! My religious readers can skin me for such a statement. So, what has gone wrong with a God-ordained institution? Look, this newspaper is precisely what it is because it focuses on the crisis of marriage and relationships that lead to it in our society. As a social scientist, I am fully aware of the fact that transformation of societies from one stage to another often creates tension that leads to some degree of dislocation. The tension is a product of struggles, fears, changes and trauma associated with critical stages of development. That is why we thinkers have to interrogate these processes with a view to understanding what has not gone wrong. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, taught me the value of literature. I have virtually spent most of my time on earth consuming, writing and critiquing good literature. He argued that literature is something philosophical and therefore presents universal truth about life. It presents to us a variety of possibilities of what can happen anywhere in the world. That is why, in this piece, I want to attempt to answer questions concerning relationships and marriage from lessons learnt from great literature of the world. I first want to argue that anxieties of every generation are recorded in the national literature of every society. That is why an understanding of social dynamics should inevitably involve a study of creative works of the age or era of society. Marriage, as a primary institution in society, has not been spared the tensions that affect other institutions. That is precisely why great literature from every generation treats the theme of marriage. Let us examine the subject by focusing on how this social phenomenon has been replayed in creative works. While it is necessary to direct inquiry into the phenomenon of husband crisis, we have to see it in relation to marriage as an institution. See also: How to know a man doesn't truly love you Let me begin by underscoring the fact that the theme of marriage has all along been at the heart of great literature from all over the world. That is why Jane Austin starts her 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, with the statement: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” She then goes on to demonstrate how this cherished institution turns out to be the cage of unhappiness to many who desire and get into it. As you read this great novel, you notice how marriage, that we all desire, turns out to be a cage of torture and torment. But it was Russian writer Leo Tolstoy who said it all in his phenomenal 1877 novel, Anna Karenina. I still consider this the greatest novel ever written. Tolstoy starts by making one of the most fundamental statements ever made on the institution of marriage. He writes: “All happy families resemble one another, every unhappy family is unhappy after its own way.” The novel proceeds to present one of the most tragic love stories ever written. The bottom line, it appears, is that while many desire to get into marriage, few get happiness in it. Should this not worry you as you prepare for that glamorous wedding? It should.