The Truly Married Woman Analysis - A Silent Song and Other Stories Easy Elimu Study Guide

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The Truly Married Woman by Abioseh Nical

About the Author

Abioseh Nicol , born Davidson Sylvester Hector Willoughby Nicol in Freetown , in 1924 and died in Cambridge in 1994 , was a writer and diplomat from Sierra Leone .


His works include:

  • Two African Tales , 1965 (stories)
  • The Truly Married Woman , 1965 (short stories)

The Title

The title of the story, "The Truly Married Woman," is an appropriate title because it reflects the central theme of the story, which is the transformation of Ayo from a single woman to a married woman with a new set of responsibilities and expectations.

Throughout the story, Ayo is presented as a strong and independent woman who is capable of taking care of herself and her children. She is shown as being fiercely protective of her children and willing to stand up for their rights, even if it means defying societal norms or challenging the authority of her husband.

However, despite her strength and independence, Ayo is also shown as being deeply aware of her role as a woman in her society.

She recognizes the importance of marriage and the expectations placed on a wife to be obedient, respectful, and supportive of her husband.

As the story progresses, we see Ayo reluctantly agree to marry Ajayi, not because she is in love with him, but because she recognizes the societal pressure to marry and the benefits that marriage can bring for her and her children.

Throughout the story, Ayo is portrayed as a complex and multi-faceted character, who is both strong and vulnerable, independent and obedient.

The title "The Truly Married Woman" is therefore an appropriate title because it reflects Ayo's transformation from a single woman to a married woman and the complex roles and responsibilities that come with that transformation.

The Plot Summary

'The Truly Married Woman,' by Abioseh Nical, recounts the story of Ajayi, civil worker, and his relationship with Ayo, woman he eventually marries.

Ajayi and Ayo first co-habitate but are not married, despite the fact that Ayo has always desired to get married legitimately.

While Ayo tries to persuade Ajayi to marry her, Ajayi is apprehensive since he believes marriage entails excessive spending and the ceremony is unnecessary.

Ajayi's perspective on marriage frustrates Ayo until she recognizes that it will never happen; as result, she stops attempting to persuade Ajati to marry her.

Essentially, she abandons the problem.

Despite not being legally married, the couple's time together looks to be reasonably cordial as Ayo faithfully executes her 'wifely' duties.

They live a normal family life, punctuated by little squabbles like the one over Ajayi's beating of their son Oju.

Ajayi is surprised by this conflict because Ayo rarely disagrees with him.

Ayo's modernised trait is shown at this time when she reveals that she has been attending women's groups where they acquire current ideas from overseas doctors.

Ajayi spends his day at work thinking about the women's gatherings, which makes him admire Ayo even more.

As the clock strikes twelve, Ajayi is visited by missionaries from the World Gospel Crusading Alliance (WGCA).

He recalls contacting them in the hopes of receiving free bibles, religious images, and even some publications.

The missionaries, however, are dead set on enrolling him as one of them, but the chief clerk saves him by stating that it was illegal for government employees to become missionaries.

He welcomes the team (the three guys from WGCA) and the chief to his home, where the wife (Ayo) reorganizes the house after learning of the guests' arrival.

She even borrows a neighbor's wedding ring.

Following the visit, Ajayi decides to propose to Ayo and they begin making wedding plans.

Despite her disbelief, Ayo accepts the marriage and begins to prepare for it.

Ironically, she declines his sexual attempts that evening, claiming that it would be inappropriate.

She then returns to her parental home, where the usual marriage preparation rituals are performed.

Ayo's father is first hesitant to sanction the wedding, and he puts Ajayi's family to the test by bringing out numerous women for them to examine before eventually presenting Ayo.

The religious wedding ceremony is about to begin.

Ayo dresses in grey gown rather than the conventional white gown as Ayaji had requested.

Because she is already mother of three, the grey garment represents her impurity.

She also wears corset to prevent her from appearing overly big.

Following the church wedding, European ceremony is held in which the wedding cake is cut.

Ajayi notices that Ayo has changed since the wedding.

Ajayi is astonished the morning after the wedding to see that Ayo is no longer pouring him tea in bed, as she had done for the previous twelve years.

The morning after the wedding, Ajayi is met with a rude shock when he wakes up. Ayo does not wake up early to prepare breakfast as usual. He concludes that maybe she was taken ill. When he asks her, she replies nonchalantly that he should wake up and make himself a cup of tea. She even contemptuously wonders if something is wrong with his legs. Surprisingly, she demands respect from him asserting that she is now a truly married woman.

The story emphasises the importance of valid marriage as compared to cohabiting. Through this emphasis, the writer, however, satirises marriage as it is not only economically draining but fails to provide happiness that should come with it.

Key moments in the story

  • Life before marriage — 42-45
  • The visit by the Missionaries
  • The proposal
  • Preparations for marriage — 46-47
  • The marriage ceremony — pg. 48
  • Life after marriage — 48

Characters and characterization

List of Characters

  • Ajayi: the protagonist of the story, a government worker
  • Ayo: Ajayi's wife, a traditional woman who takes care of the household
  • Jonathan Olsen: a member of the World Gospel Crusading Alliance from Minnesota in the USA
  • Chief clerk: an older African man who works with Ajayi at the government office
  • Oju: Ayo's son
  • Ayo's father: a proud and difficult man
  • Ayo's sisters: several women who are present at Ayo's wedding
  • Omo: Ayo's jealous neighbor
  • Ayo's mother: a woman who cries at Ayo's wedding and gives advice to Ayo on being a wife
  • Ayo's old aunt: a woman who gives Ajayi and Ayo a glass of water to drink at their wedding and gives them advice on their marriage.

Character Traits


  • Respectful: Ajayi is shown to be respectful towards others, as he is polite and follows the rules of his workplace. For example, he makes sure to introduce the missionaries to the chief clerk, and later follows the chief clerk's advice not to become a missionary due to the rules against it. Ajayi refers to the chief clerk as "sir" and refers to the white men from the WGCA as "gentlemen"
  • Hardworking: Ajayi is shown to be a hardworking individual, as he is able to maintain a job and is responsible for providing for his family.
  • Thoughtful: Ajayi is shown to be thoughtful in his actions and decisions, as he considers the consequences of his actions and thinks about the future. For example, he considers the implications of becoming a missionary, and later decides to marry Ayo after thinking about the consequences. Ajayi's visit from the WGCA and Ayo's protest about the beating make him think about his future and he decides to marry Ayo
  • Good-natured: Ajayi is shown to be good-natured, as he is friendly and welcoming towards the missionaries, and invites them to his home for a drink.
  • Responsible: Ajayi is shown to be responsible in his actions, as he takes care of his family and follows through on his decisions. He follows through on his decision to marry Ayo, and later takes on the role of husband and provider for his family.
  • Ambitious: Ajayi writes to the World Gospel Crusading Alliance in hopes of receiving free Bibles or large religious pictures that he could sell or give away
  • Resourceful: Ajayi quickly comes up with a plan to invite the WGCA men to his house for drinks and asks another clerk to go home and warn his wife, Ayo, to prepare for the visitors
  • Considerate: Ajayi agrees to Ayo's request to have a church wedding, even though he would have preferred a traditional one
  • Persistent: Ajayi borrows money to pay for the music, food, and dresses for the wedding, despite the tightness of the corset and his tight budget
  • Obedient: When Ayo pushes him back gently and says "no" on the night before their wedding, Ajayi obeys her request to wait until after they are married


  • Prideful: she has a proud head and long neck
  • Respectful: she expects more respect from her husband after they are married
  • Responsible: she has gotten up early every morning for 12 years to make tea and breakfast for Ajayi
  • Thoughtful: she is worried about Ajayi when he expresses a desire to marry her out of the blue
  • Caring: she is concerned about her husband's well-being and takes care of him
  • Confident: she stands up for herself and her beliefs, such as protesting against the beating of her children
  • Resourceful: she finds ways to solve problems, such as borrowing a wedding ring from a neighbor or visiting the soothsayer before Ajayi's sister can. Ayo is able to make a wedding cake, clean and decorate her home, and find solutions to problems, such as borrowing a wedding ring and hiding the wine glasses.
  • Traditional: she values and follows traditional customs, such as participating in the traditional pre-wedding rituals with Ajayi's family
  • Strong-willed: she is not afraid to speak her mind and assert her autonomy, even in the face of resistance or criticism (e.g. from her jealous neighbor)
  • Patient: Ayo tolerates Ajayi's tendency to be bossy and demanding, and she is willing to wait until they are married before being intimate with him.
  • Kind: Ayo is considerate of others, as seen when she asks Ajayi if he is feeling ill and when she takes care of her children and neighbors.
  • Independent: Ayo is able to stand up for herself and make her own decisions, as seen when she protests against Ajayi's beating of their children and when she decides not to wear a white wedding dress.
  • Practical: Ayo is practical in her approach to life, as seen when she decides not to go on a honeymoon with Ajayi due to financial constraints.

Ayo’s Father

  • Proud: He is proud of his family and wants to ensure that Ayo is married to a good and suitable husband. This is demonstrated when Ajayi's family comes to ask for Ayo's hand in marriage, and Ayo's father goes through a lengthy and detailed questioning process to ensure that Ajayi's family is good enough.
  • Protective: Ayo's father wants to protect his daughter and make sure that she is well taken care of. This is shown when he gives Ayo away at the wedding ceremony and provides her with advice on how to be a good wife.
  • Traditional: Ayo's father follows traditional customs and practices, as demonstrated by the wedding ceremony and the exchange of gifts with Ajayi's family.
  • Respectful: Ayo's father is respectful towards Ajayi's family, even though he initially hesitated to let them into his house. This is shown when he accepts their gifts and talks with them about the marriage.

The Chief Clerk

  • Concerned/caring: He advised Ajayi against being a missionary, which would lead to him losing his job. This shows that the chief clerk cares about Ajayi's well-being and is looking out for his best interests.


  • Jealous: when Ayo showed her the wedding presents that Ajayi was going to give her and Omo's face was both jealous and angry as she touched the silky, see-through material. Omo said, "These are awful; they hide nothing, you should be ashamed to wear them," and pushed the material angrily back over the wall to Ayo. This shows that Omo was jealous of Ayo's relationship with Ajayi and the presents he was giving her.

Ayo’s Aunt

  • Wise and caring: based on the way she advised Ayo and Ajayi on their marriage. She encouraged them to be respectful towards each other and to avoid conflicts, and also reminded Ajayi to be faithful to Ayo. Concerned: she showed concern for Ayo's well-being by warning her about the dangers of being too friendly with other women, who may try to steal her husband.


Role of Gender and Gender Expectations

One theme in the story is the role of gender and expectations of traditional gender roles.

Ayo has always been responsible for making tea for Ajayi and taking care of the household, while Ajayi goes to work.

However, after they are married, Ayo asserts her newly acquired status as a "truly married woman" and expects Ajayi to be more respectful and take on some household responsibilities, such as making his own tea.

This theme is also present in Ayo's father's demands for a suitable husband for his daughter, and the traditional role of the husband in paying for the wedding and providing for the family.

Conflict due to parenting styles

Different parents adopt different parenting styles.

Some parents are very strict with their children to the extent that they use excessive force to ensure their children behave as they wish. A good example is Ajayi, who beats his eldest son Oju for having wet his sleeping mat (pg.43).

On her part, Ayo feels that this is not right, and in one of the rare occurrences, she disagrees with Ajayi about it. She tells him, “Ajayi, you beat Oju too much. he has not stopped wetting although you beat him every time he does. In fact, he is doing it more and more now. Perhaps if you stopped beating him, he would get better.” (pg.43).

Through their disagreement, we learn of Ayo’s modernised and informed traits as she discloses that she has been attending women’s meetings where they are taught modern ideas (pg.44).

These traits are one of the triggers that make Ajayi marry Ayo after realising that she is a woman to be proud of.

We also see some conflict over what parents want for their children in relation to what the children want for themselves.

Ayo’s living with Ajayi had not been accepted by her parents — ‘When she first came to him-against her parents’ wishes. ‘ (pg. 43).

The writer further tells us what Ayo’s father had hoped that she would marry a high school teacher. However, Ayo fell in love with Ajayi, a government clerk, and moved in with him (pg. 43).

Family and Community

Another theme is the importance of family and community in African culture.

The story shows the strong involvement of the community and extended family in the wedding process, including the negotiation for the bride and the exchange of gifts.

The importance of family is also shown in Ayo's decision to move back in with her father before the wedding and the close relationships between siblings and cousins.

Religion and Spirituality

Another theme is the role of religion and spirituality in the characters' lives.

Ajayi is initially interested in becoming a missionary with the World Gospel Crusading Alliance, and the story includes references to traditional religious practices such as praying and consulting soothsayers.

The characters also frequently express their belief in God and the importance of living a virtuous and moral life.


There is a lot of pretense among people in society to portray a particular image.

Ajayi wrote to World Gospel Crusading Alliance, pretending to be interested in some information from them after a friend gave him a magazine that contained an invitation to join the missionary Alliance.

However, his true intention was not to work with them, but he hoped to get free items such as bibles and large religious pictures that he would sell, give away, or use as wall pictures (pg.44).

The depth of his hypocrisy is seen when he appears relieved that the chief clerk saved him from a life as a missionary when he told the visitors that the government prohibited his workers from working as missionaries.

So appreciative is Ajayi of the chief clerk that he presents a carefully wrapped bottle of beer to the chief clerk as a present for having saved him (pg.45).

He hypocritically extends an invitation of the missionaries to his home.

He lies to them that the roads are not suitable to prevent them from using a taxi. He intends to give time to his wife to reorganise their home into an appropriate environment to host the missionaries.

Ayo also portrays high levels of hypocrisy. She changes the appearance of their home when she receives a message from Ajayi that he will be bringing white men to their home in half an hour.

Ayo took down the calendars with pictures of lightly clothed women and replaced them with family photographs. She also replaced the magazines with religious books and hid the wine glasses under the sofa. In efforts to portray an actual spiritual image, she goes ahead to borrow a wedding ring from her neighbour before putting on her Sunday dress (pg. 45).

The missionaries are impressed by the show that she put up. The writer uses this act to symbolise Ayo’s hypocrisy even in her marriage.

Ayo has been pretending to be a dutiful wife for the twelve years before her marriage as she shows her true colours after the wedding. She refuses to prepare morning tea and breakfast forAjayi (pg 48).

Her hypocrisy is further seen when she turns down Ajayi’s advances on the evening he disclosed to her that he intended to marry her. She shyly says ‘No’ (pg. 45) and pushes him away, asking him to wait until after marriage.

She argues that it would not be correct. This is ironic since the two have lived together for twelve years, and their intimacy has borne three children.

Contrast Between African and Western Culture

Another theme is the contrast between African and Western culture.

This is demonstrated through the characters' interactions with the white missionaries from the United States, as well as the influence of Western media on the characters' choices and expectations, such as Ajayi's desire for Ayo to wear a traditional white wedding dress and Ayo's reference to Hollywood actresses wearing see-through material.

Cohabiting vs. marriage

The story is centered around Ayo and Ajayi's marriage, and explores the expectations and roles within a marriage.

Despite living together for twelve years and having three children already, Ayo and Ajayi are not considered married. The writer tells us that ‘Ajayi and Ayo have been together for twelve years. They are not married. Ajayi had meant to marry Ayo, but the right moment never came. (pg.42).

It is no wonder that while explaining to his friends who Ayo is, Ajayi refers to her as not a wife but a mistress (pg. 43).

Ayo is seen to have hoped that Ajayi would indeed marry her. During their first year of marriage, she kept telling Ajayi about their friends’ weddings, hoping that he would get interested and marry her.

She, however, ends up frustrated when instead of showing an interest, he criticises the friends’ spending due to the considerable cost of the ceremony (pg. 43).

The priest emphasises the importance of people getting married through his sermon.

The writer observes that the priest would speak out violently against unmarried couples who lived together about two or three times in a year (pg. 43).

These sermons would make friends of Ajayi and Ayo look at them sympathetically, leading to Ajayi keeping off from the church for a few weeks.

Despite not being married, Ajayi and Ayo enjoy some peaceful ambience in their marriage. Ayo performs her wifely roles dutifully. She would wake up at five to prepare his breakfast (pg. 48).

Ajayi would wake at six-fifteen and find his cup of tea ready just as he liked it — ‘weak and sugary, without milk’ (pg. 42).

Ironically, after Ayo is married, things seem to change.

Instead of continuing with her wifely duty or making them better, Ayo is reluctant to serve her husband as she used it.

The morning after the wedding finds Ayo comfortably beside her husband when his alarm goes off.

Unlike other previous mornings, there is no tea ready for Ajayi.

He is initially alarmed as he thinks she is ill.

Still, her shocking reply confirms her deliberately intention not to do it — “Ajayi, my husband…for twelve years I have got up every morning at five to make tea for you and breakfast. Now I am a truly married woman; you must behave towards me with some respect. You are now my husband and not a lover. Get up and make yourself a cup of tea” (pg. 48).

This strange turn of events raises concern over whether valid marriage helps improve the home environment or destroys the home.

Power dynamics

The power dynamic within the relationship between Ayo and Ajayi is explored, with Ayo taking a more assertive role in their marriage.


The story also touches on the theme of personal growth and change, as Ayo and Ajayi navigate their new roles as a married couple.

Poverty and financial struggles

Ajayi borrows a large sum of money in order to pay for the music, food, and dresses for the wedding

Ajayi and Ayo cannot afford a holiday after the wedding

Ayo's father demands gifts and demands to be assured that Ajayi's family is good enough before agreeing to the marriage

Ajayi's uncle and other relations bring traditional gifts to Ayo's father, including small coins and fruit, in order to prove their worth and ability to care for Ayo

Ajayi and Ayo discuss the financial constraints of their wedding and make decisions based on their limited resources, such as choosing a grey dress for Ayo instead of a white one and not going on a honeymoon.

Stylistic Devices


Repeating words or phrases.

(There are actually many different types of repetition like anaphora and epiphora.)

The phrase "Hip, hip, hooray" is repeated when the family is celebrating Ayo's engagement. This repetition adds emphasis to the celebration and creates a sense of joy and excitement.

"No, this one is too short to be Ayo. No, this one is too fat." This repetition is used to emphasize the fact that none of the women brought out by Ayo's father are the right one.


Comparing two things without using the words “like” or “as”.

Ayo's father compares Ayo to a "red, red rose" when he is discussing her engagement with Ajayi's family. This metaphor serves to depict Ayo as a beautiful and valuable commodity.


Repetition of initial consonant sound.

The phrase "many others will grow from it" uses alliteration with the repetition of the "m" sound. This adds a rhythmic quality to the sentence and creates a sense of flow.


When an idea or animal is given human characteristics. “The sky weeps.”

The phrase "the tightness of the corset" personifies the corset as having agency and the ability to constrict. This adds a sense of discomfort and struggle to the experience of wearing the corset.


Comparing two things using the words “like” or “as”

The phrase "Ayo seemed different in Ajayï's eyes" compares Ayo's appearance to how Ajayi sees her using the simile "like". This comparison adds a sense of change or transformation to Ayo's appearance.


Imagery is a literary device used in poetry, novels, and other writing that uses vivid description that appeals to a readers' senses to create an image or idea in their head.

Through language, imagery does not only paint a picture, but aims to portray the sensational and emotional experience within text.

Which is the use of language to create vivid mental images or sensory experiences in the reader's mind. For example, the passage describes Ayo's "proud head" and "long neck" when Ajayi looks at her after their wedding, which helps the reader to visualize Ayo's appearance.

Revision questions for The Truly Married Woman

  1. Describe early morning activities of Ajayi before he goes to work
  2. Compare and contrast Ayo’s behaviour before marriage and after
  3. What does Ajayi’s beating of Oju for wetting his sleeping mat reveals about Ajayi?
  4. What preparations does Ayo make as she waits for the guests? What does this reveal about her?
  5. Explain Ayo’s reaction when Ajayi tells her that he plans to marry her?
  6. What does Omo’s reaction to Ayo’s disclosure about the planned marriage reveal about her?
  7. Briefly describe the traditional marriage practices that take place before Ayo’s marriage.
  8. What is Ayo’s old aunts’ advice to the newly married?
  9. What is the importance of tile traditional marriage preparation practices that are carried out before Ayo’s marriage?
  10. The institution of marriage should be treated with respect as it is of great. Show how Ayo fails to do so after she is truly married.

Essay Questions

  1.  Does a valid marriage helps improve the home environment or destroys the home? Basing your answer on The Truly Married Woman write an essay validating or refuting this claim.
  2. Marriage is satirised in the story The Truly Married Woman Support this assertion.
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