Kinship and Marriage in a New Guinea Village

By H. Ian Hogbin | Go to book overview

8
Husband and Wife

MARRIAGE is supposed to be founded solely on sexual desire, and people often say--unwittingly quoting one of the myths forgotten by all but the older men--that its purpose is to preserve social life from destruction. They explain that, just as rain without rivers to carry the water away would become a flood covering everything, so undirected appetite would lead to chaos. This view is understandable in a society that condemns extra-marital intercourse. The physical aspects of sex are bound to be stressed if gratification is only approved when sought in wedlock.1

Yet the young man's relatives begin by warning him that he must not on any account approach his bride till she has learned to adjust herself to her new surroundings. They remind him that, whereas he still works with his comrades and spends his evenings in the familiar club, she has to live with a mother-in-law and garden in the company of strange women. These may all have been her neighbours for years, but adapting herself to their idiosyncrasies, running errands for them, and fetching them firewood inevitably create strain. She knows that, even if silent in her presence, they enjoy pointing out her failures and shortcomings when by themselves.

Not until at least a month has passed does the man's mother set about bringing him and his wife together. The woman insists that he must now sometimes eat a meal at home, take the girl with him to the gardens, and till the ground at her side. Soon they are able to behave naturally and speak freely to each other. They may use personal names, but generally the husband addresses his wife as awi, literally 'woman', and she him as nanga' (from nga' = 'man'). For a few weeks longer the kin urge caution, and usually he postpones his advances unless she gives him positive encouragement.

At this stage the couple have intercourse only in the forest, though the man's mother still urges him to share his wife's mat from time to time at home. The mother then waits until everyone is asleep and fans the fire into a blaze to discover the probable state of their feelings. The girl

____________________
1
The Wogeo natives, who are in youth promiscuous, over-emphasize the economic side. The relevant myth tells how the culture heroes ordained the institution of marriage in order that men could eat vegetables, grown by women, and women eat fish, caught by men. (See Hogbin, 1945, pp. 324, 325.)

-124-

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Kinship and Marriage in a New Guinea Village
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Contents viii
  • I - The Setting 1
  • 2 - Kin and Community 13
  • 3 - Kinship Terms 38
  • 4 - Birth and Early Childhood 53
  • 5 - Later Childhood and Adolescence 72
  • 6 - Awakening of the Sexual Impulses 94
  • 7 - Marriage 103
  • 8 - Husband and Wife 124
  • 9 - Supporting a Family 138
  • I0 - Fulfilling Obligations 154
  • II - The Last Years 164
  • References 171
  • Index 174
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