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Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieWhen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published in2003, it received widespread acclaim. Purple Hibiscus was shortlisted for and wonseveral prestigious awards for its portrayal of a character and a nation on the verge ofradical change. Adichie draws on her own childhood experiences to inform her characters' lives. She was born in Enugu, the hometown of Kambili, and raised inAunty Ifeoma's university environment in Nsukka. She is of Igbo descent and is adevout Catholic.
Purple Hibiscus is a storey about Adichie's native country's corruption and religious fundamentalism. Because the storey is told from the perspective of a child, overtpolitical messages are kept at a distance, but they inform Kambili's coming of age.The novel touches on the wave of bloody coups and corrupt military rule that hasdefined Nigerian politics. While Papa can be viewed as a metaphor for the dangers offundamentalism, he strives to use his influence for the greater good by raising social consciousness. Adichie based Ade Coker on Dele Giwa, a Nigerian journalist andoutspoken critic of the government. Giwa was assassinated in 1986 at his home by amail bomb. Adichie's novel echoes real-world political activism and events.
Adichie was an excellent student in school, but unlike Kambili, she was known for clashing with her teachers; Obiora is more akin to Adichie. Purple Hibiscus is bothKambili and Jaja's coming of age storey. While Jaja is not permitted to participate inthe Igbo initiation ritual, both children make significant progress toward developingtheir own adult identities throughout the novel. Kambili, in particular, learns to useher voice after being inspired by her outspoken aunt and cousin Amaka. Adichie uses Purple Hibiscus to give a voice to an aspect of African experience that is frequentlyoverlooked by Western media.
Purple Hibiscus is set in Enugu, a city in post-colonial Nigeria, and is told in the firstperson by the protagonist, Kambili Achike. Kambili lives with her older brother Jaja (Chukwuku Achike), a high-achieving teenager who, like his sister, is withdrawn andsullen. Papa (Eugene Achike), Kambili's father, is a strict authoritarian whoseadherence to Catholicism trumps his paternal love. When his wife, Mama (BeatriceAchike), and children fail to live up to his impossibly high standards, he punishesthem.
Palm Sunday is the setting for the novel. Jaja has expressed an unwillingness to attendchurch and receive communion. Papa throws his missal at Jaja because he has noreasonable excuse for missing church. The book collides with a shelf holding hiswife's prized figurines. This defiant act and the ensuing violence mark the beginning of the Achike family's demise. The events leading up to Palm Sunday are thenexplained by Kambili, who details the seeds of rebellion planted in the children'sminds by their liberal Aunty Ifeoma, Papa's sister.
Papa is a well-known individual in Enugu. He owns several factories and publishes the Standard, a pro-democracy newspaper. He is lauded for his numerous good worksby his priest, Father Benedict, and his editor, Ade Coker. Papa is a philanthropist whocontributes generously to his parish and his children's schools. His newspaper
publishes articles critical of government corruption, which is rampant. Because theStandard reports the truth, the staff is constantly under pressure from the Head of State, the military leader who assumes the presidency in the aftermath of a coup.When Ade Coker is arrested, Papa's courage and standing in the community aid in hisrelease.
Kambili is an extremely quiet child. She frequently stutters or has a coughing fit when she attempts to speak. Her rigid life, shaped by her father, renders her deafeninglysilent. Each day, she adheres to a strict schedule that includes only time for study,eating, sleeping, praying, and spending time with her family. Kambili is an excellentstudent who has advanced to the top of her class. The girls at school assume she is asnob due to her lack of social interaction and her habit of running directly to her father's car following class. When Kambili finishes second in her class, Papa instructsher to excel because God expects more of her. Kambili is not a snob; she is fearful andincapable of forming her own identity.
The family returns to the Papa's ancestral town of Abba for Christmas. The family oversees the preparation of a feast for the entire umunna – extended family. Papa isalso lauded in Abba for his generosity. He does not, however, allow his children tospend more than fifteen minutes each Christmas with his own father, Papa-Nnukwu.Papa refers to his father as a "heathen" because he continues to adhere to his people'sreligious traditions, the Igbo. When Aunty Ifeoma visits from her university town of Nsukka, she confronts Papa about his father's mistreatment. However, Papa isadamant. He will recognise and support his father only after he converts. AuntyIfeoma invites Kambili and Jaja to visit in order for them to participate in apilgrimage to Aokpe, the location of a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary. Papaagrees grudgingly.
Nsukka is a world unto itself. Fuel shortages, pay freezes, strikes at medical clinics,blackouts, and rising food prices are plaguing the University. Aunty Ifeoma, a widow,successfully raises her three children, Amaka, Obiora, and Chima, on her meagremeans. However, her family is happy. Unlike Papa, Aunty Ifeoma encourages her children to challenge authority, instilling both faith and intellectual curiosity in them.Amaka and Kambili are two very distinct young ladies. Amaka, like her classmates,assumes her cousin is a privileged snob due to her inability to assist with householdchores. Even in Nsukka, Kambili withdraws into silence. On the other hand, Jajablossoms. He follows his younger cousin Obiora's example, inventing his own rite of initiation by assisting his family, tending a garden, and slaughtering a chicken. WhenKambili meets Father Amadi, she begins to open up. Father Amadi, a Nigerian-bornpriest, is gentle and supportive. He encourages Kambili to express herself freely.Through Father Amadi, Kambili discovers that it is possible to think independentlywhile remaining devout. She even begins speaking to Amaka above a whisper, and the two grow closer.
In Nsukka, Kambili and Jaja learn to be more accepting. Aunty Ifeoma brings Papa-Nnukwu to her flat when he becomes ill. Kambili and Jaja choose not to inform Papaof their cohabitation with a "heathen." Kambili observes her grandfather's morning innocence ritual, in which he expresses gratitude to his gods and proclaims his gooddeeds. She recognises the beauty of this ritual and begins to realise that the distancebetween herself and Papa-Nnukwu is not nearly as great as it appears. When Kambili
and Jaja's father learns that they have spent time with their grandfather, he bringsthem home. Amaka presents her with a painting of Papa-Nnukwu for her return to Enugu. Papa punishes his children for "walking into sin" by pouring hot water overtheir feet.
Papa is under increasing pressure. Soldiers arrest and torture Ade Coker once more,and they raid the Standard's offices and shut down his factories for health code violations. Shortly afterwards, the government assassinates Ade Coker. Tensions alsorise within the family. Kambili and Jaja find solace in Papa-painting. Nnukwu's Papa,however, apprehends them and severely beats Kambili, leaving her in criticalcondition in the hospital. When she is well enough to return home, she travels toNsukka rather than home. Her crush on Father Amadi grows stronger, and she begins to emerge more from her shell, learning to laugh and participate in Igbo songs.However, Aunty Ifeoma is fired from the University and decides to teach in America.Kambili is taken aback. She is unsure of what she will do in the absence of her auntand cousins. Amaka, on the other hand, is opposed to travelling to America due to herNigerian ancestors.
Mama arrives in Nsukka limping from a cab. Papa has beaten her once more, resultingin yet another miscarriage. Though Kambili and Jaja have witnessed this before, thistime is unique. Aunty Ifeoma strongly advises her against returning to Enugu.However, she returns with her children. Palm Sunday occurs the following week, during which Jaja refuses to attend church. Jaja becomes increasingly defiant duringthe week between Palm Sunday and Easter. He finally insists on spending Easter withhis and Kambili's cousins. Weakened by the children's perception of stress, he permitsthem to travel to Nsukka. Mama calls a few days later. Papa has passed away. Mamabegan poisoning her husband's tea after she left Nsukka. Jaja accepts responsibility for the crime and is sentenced to prison.
The book's concluding chapter takes place nearly three years later. Kambili and Mamapay a visit to a jailed Jaja. Throughout his sentence, he has faced severe punishmentsand deplorable conditions. However, with Nigeria's leadership changing yet again, their attorneys are optimistic that Jaja will be released. Though Jaja has come toexpect the worst, Kambili is overjoyed. She fantasises about taking Jaja to America tovisit Aunty Ifeoma, where they will plant orange trees and reintroduce purplehibiscuses to Abba.
Kambili and Jaja both reach their adolescent years in Purple Hibiscus as a result oftheir experiences. Jaja rebels against his devout Catholic father by skippingcommunion on Palm Sunday, a significant religious holiday. The subsequent chaptersdetail the events leading up to Jaja's defiance. Three years after this incident, Kambilinarrates the book. Kambili barely speaks now that she has been stunted by her father's severe punishments. Her narration is remarkable because it is clear that she discoversher own voice during this ordeal. Kambili and Jaja both progress toward adulthood asa result of overcoming adversity and being exposed to new ideas.
Growing up entails developing your own identity through the paths you choose. In Enugu, the only path open to Kambili and Jaja is Papa. He creates schedules for themand severely punishes them if they deviate. When Kambili and Jaja travel to Nsukkato visit their Aunty Ifeoma, they are astounded by what they discover. Though her
home is sparsely furnished and devoid of luxuries, there is an atmosphere of love andrespect. Amaka and Obiora, her children, are allowed to question authority and forge their own paths. Obiora, despite his three-year age difference with Jaja, is articulateand protective. He was initiated into Igbo culture through the performance of amanhood rite. Jaja was not permitted to participate and is embarrassed to be behindhis cousin. Jaja is urged to reconsider his allegiances and make his own choices inNsukka.
Aunty Ifeoma convinces Kambili to change her mind about Papa-Nnukwu. Hergrandfather, as she has been taught by Papa, is a heathen. However, when sheexamines his face, she discovers no evidence of godliness. After witnessing hisinnocence ritual, Kambili begins to doubt her father's absolute rule. Both Kambili and Jaja take significant steps toward adulthood by asserting their uniqueness.
Between Father Benedict and Father Amadi, there is a contrast. Father Benedict is awhite man from England who conducts his masses according to European custom. Heis a priest at Papa's beloved St. Agnes. Papa adopts Father Benedict's style, expunging all traces of his Nigerian ancestry. Papa invokes his faith to justify his child abuse.Religion is not solely to blame. Papa embodies the wave of fundamentalism sweepingthrough Nigeria, corrupting faith.
On the other hand, Father Amadi is an African priest who combines Catholicism and Igbo traditions. He believes that faith is both simpler and more complex than themessage preached by Father Benedict. Father Amadi is a contemporary African manwho is culturally aware but influenced by his country's colonial history. He is not, likePapa and his God, a moral absolutist. When religion is used gently, as it is inKambili's life, it can be a positive force.
Papa-Nnukwu is a purist. He practises his ancestors' rituals and adheres to apantheistic religious model. While both his son and daughter converted toCatholicism, Papa-Nnukwu retained his traditional beliefs. After witnessing hismorning ritual, Kambili realises that their faiths are not as diametrically opposed as they appear. Kambili's faith transcends the confines of any single religion. She adoresthe splendour of nature, her family, prayer, and the Bible. Kambili's devotion isconfirmed when she witnesses the miracle at Aokpe. Aunty Ifeoma concurs withAunty Ifeoma that God was present, despite the fact that she did not witness theapparition. God surrounds Kambili and her family and can manifest himself in the form of a smile.
Purple Hibiscus delves into the individualistic nature of faith. Kambili tempers herdevotion with a sense of awe for her forefathers and mothers. Jaja and Amakaeventually abandon their faiths due to their inextricable connection to Papa and colonialism, respectively.
In Nigeria, colonialism is a complicated subject. Colonialism, according to Papa-Nnukwu, is a malevolent force that enslaved the Igbo people and annihilated theirtraditions. Papa attributes his access to higher education and grace to colonialism. It has resulted in Father Amadi's faith, but he sees no reason why the old and new wayscannot coexist. Father Amadi is a global ambassador for modern Nigeria.
Papa is a colonialist product. He was educated and studied in English by missionaries.His wisdom, which he brings back to Nigeria, is heavily influenced by those who colonised his country. He abandons his forefathers' traditions and prefers tocommunicate in public primarily in British-accented English. His sprawling estate islavishly furnished with western luxuries such as satellite television and music. Amakaassumes Kambili is a fan of American pop stars while listening to musicians whoembrace their African ancestry. However, Papa's success is illusory. Children are not permitted to view television. His home, which has been modernised to Westernstandards, is purely for show. His home is devoid of life, just as his accent is maskedin front of whites.
Both Kambili and Jaja must come to terms with the lingering effects of colonialism in their own lives throughout the novel. Both of them adapt to life outside their father'scontrol by embracing or accepting traditional ways.
Both Kambili and the country are on the verge of significant changes. Nigeria'spolitical climate and the Achike family's internal drama are inextricably linked. Following Nigeria's independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, a cycle ofviolent coups and military dictatorships resulted in civil war, which triggered anothercycle of bloody unrest. Even democracy is harmed by widespread governmentcorruption.
In Purple Hibiscus, a coup takes place, culminating in military rule. Papa and hisnewspaper, the Standard, are critical of the corruption ushered in by an unelectedleader. In his own home, Papa, ironically, is a self-righteous dictator. He is vengefultoward his children when they deviate from the path he has chosen for them. Papaseverely beats Kambili in the aftermath of Ade Coker's death, to the point where she is hospitalised in critical condition. Violence breeds violence, both in Nigeria and athome.
Kambili and Jaja are initially kept out of the unrest. From the safety of their car, theywitness protests, deadly roadblocks, and harassment. However, upon their arrival in Nsukka, they are thrust into political controversy. According to Obiora, the universityis a microcosm of Nigeria, where one man wields absolute power. Professors havebeen denied pay, and light and power are frequently cut off. Strikes by medicalpersonnel and technicians result in an increase in food prices. There are rumours thatthe university's sole administrator is misusing funds. This is a parallel to what is occurring in the rest of the country. Kambili and Jaja now have a firsthandunderstanding of their cousins' plight. The personal is transformed into the political,and vice versa.
Throughout the novel, several characters are gripped by silence. Kambili bears the brunt of the pain, unable to speak anything but rehearsed platitudes without stutteringor coughing. Her silence is a result of her father's abuse. Kambili is unable to speakthe truth about her domestic situation. When her classmates mock her for being abackyard snob, she fails to explain that she is afraid to socialise. She is not permittedto linger after school for fear of being late and being beaten. She finally learns how to express herself after being constantly taunted by her cousin Amaka. Aunty Ifeomaencourages her to defend herself, and it is only at that point that Amaka and Kambilican form a friendship. Kambili gains confidence, laughs, and even sings.
The second and fourth sections are titled Speaking With Our Spirits and A Different Silence, respectively. Kambili and Jaja communicate with one another through theireyes, unable to express the ugliness of their situation. Mama, like her daughter, isunable to speak freely within the confines of her own home. She can only actauthentically around Aunty Ifeoma. As the title implies, the silence that descends uponEnugu following Papa's murder is unique. This silence, like the one that existed during Papa's lifetime, is hopeless. However, it is a sincere silence. Mama andKambili are aware of the truth, and nothing more can be said. Jaja's silence reveals ahardness that has developed while he is imprisoned. There is nothing he can say thatwill alleviate his agony. Aunty Ifeoma's tapes with her children's voices provide himwith the only respite he has.
Additionally, silence is used as a form of punishment. When Kambili and Jaja visitNsukka for Easter, Jaja refuses to speak with his father. They use the years of silencehe imposed on his children as a weapon against him. Additionally, the governmentsilences Ade Coker by assassinating him after he publishes a damaging storey in the Standard. When soldiers raid Aunty Ifeoma's flat, they are attempting to intimidate herinto abandoning her sympathies for the rioting students. Silence is a form ofaggression.
Papa has beaten his wife and children on several occasions. He is provoked each time by an action he deems immoral. When Mama refuses to visit Father Benedict due toher illness, Papa beats her, causing her to miscarry. When Kambili and Jaja share ahome with a heathen, their feet are poured with boiling water for having walked insin. Kambili is kicked until she is hospitalised for possessing a Papa-Nnukwupainting.
Papa justifies his violence against his family by claiming it is for their own good. Hischildren have become deafened as a result of the beatings. Kambili and Jaja are bothwise beyond their years and are also prevented from reaching adulthood, as maturityfrequently entails challenging authority. Papa does not laugh when Ade Coker jokes about his children being too quiet. They are terrified of God. Kambili and Jaja aretruly fearful of their father. Being able to defeat them has the opposite effect. Theychoose the correct path out of fear of the consequences. They are not rewarded forsuccess or growth, but are threatened with failure if they do not. This has an effect onJaja in particular, who is embarrassed at how far behind Obiora he is in terms of intelligence and protecting his family. He eventually comes to view religion assynonymous with punishment and abandons his faith.
The abuse is motivated by an underlying sexism. When Mama informs Kambili of herpregnancy, she reveals that she miscarried several times following Kambili's birth. Mama loses two pregnancies to Papa during the novel's narrative. Other miscarriagesmay have occurred as a result of these beatings. Papa requires the children to sayspecial novenas for their mother's forgiveness when she miscarries. Even though he isat fault, he implies that Mama is at fault. Mama believes that she is incapable ofexisting apart from her marriage. Aunty Ifeoma's assertion that life begins after marriage is dismissed as "university talk." Mama has not been liberated and enduresthe abuse out of a sense of justice. She eventually poisons Papa out of desperation.
The abuse has repressed her to the point where she feels compelled to commit murderin order to escape.
The book's title flower is a symbol of liberty and hope. Jaja is drawn to the unusualpurple hibiscus, which Aunty Ifeoma bred with the assistance of a botanist friend.Aunty Ifeoma has created something new by fusing nature and intelligence. For Jaja,the flower symbolises the possibility of creating something new. He yearns to be free of his Papa's dominion. He returns home with a stalk of the purple hibiscus and plantsit in their garden. He also takes the insight he gains from Nsukka with him. Bothflourish, as does Jaja and his rebellion.
Kambili's shifting attitudes toward nature reflect her developmental stage. Kambili discovers an earthworm in the tub during one of her first showers at Nsukka. Ratherthan coexisting with it, she flushes it. When Father Amadi takes her to have her hairplaited, she witnesses a determined snail crawling out of a basket repeatedly. Sheidentifies with the snail due to her attempts to crawl away from Enugu and her doom.Later, when she bathes in sky-scented water, she abandons the worm. She recognises that God can be found anywhere and admires its tenacity.
Kambili daydreams in the opening pages of the book while admiring the numerousfruit and flower trees in her yard. This same yard, a symbol of wealth, exposes her to"snob" taunts at school. However, she is fixated on the beauty of the trees in this location. When Kambili returns from Nsukka following her mother's miscarriage, shebecomes ill from the rotting tree fruit. The rot represents both the Achike household'sillness and Kambili's new perspective on her home. As with the trees, she isimprisoned by tall walls.
The novel also includes a section on weather. When Ade Coker dies, there aretorrential downpours. Following Palm Sunday, a violent wind uproots several treesand knocks down the satellite dish. Rain and wind serve as a mirror for the drama thatplays out in the Achikes' lives. Mama explains to Kambili that a mixture of rain andsun represents God's uncertainty about what to bring. Just as rain and sun can coexist, good and evil are inextricably linked. Kambili deduces from nature that there are noabsolutes. Papa is neither entirely good nor entirely evil; her faith does not have to beCatholic or traditionalist; and she can challenge her parents while remaining a goodchild.
The novel's first line makes a reference to Chinua Achebe's masterpiece Things FallApart. Things Fall Apart is one of the first prominent English-language Nigeriannovels. It follows the rise and fall of an Igbo man in a village overrun by Europeanmissionaries. The fictionalised tensions between the missionaries and the clan in thatnovel symbolise the clash of old and new ways. The missionaries' objective is to convert Nigerians to Christianity. While some missionaries sought to preach theirgospel while remaining respectful of indigenous cultures, others used theirrighteousness to justify oppressing and even enslaving Nigerians.
White people's presence in Nigeria had political, economic, and religious ramifications. Clan rulers who were unwilling to cooperate with the British weredeposed. This pattern of corruption persisted into the post-colonial era, when those inpower rewarded their allies while oppressing those who opposed them.
From 1850 to 1929, when nationalist movements gained popularity, the colonial period was known as the colonial period. Nigeria gained independence from theUnited Kingdom in 1960. However, independence precipitated a wave of instabilitythat culminated in a civil war. Military coups wreaked havoc on those in power. TheIgbo people established their own state, the Republic of Biafra, in 1967. Between 1and 3 million people died during the thirty-month civil war between Nigerians and Biafrans.
Oil ruled politics in the 1970s and 1980s. Oil production boomed once more, usheringin a profit-driven political system. Another wave of military coups wreaked havoc onthe country, causing instability and corruption. For instance, in 1993, General Sani Abacha seized power and avoided overthrow through bribery of the military. Abachadies in unusual circumstances as the Head of State Big Oga in Purple Hibiscus.Hundreds of millions of dollars have been discovered in hidden bank accounts. Themilitary restored democracy to the country in 1999, despite widespread perceptions ofunfree and unfair elections.
Purple Hibiscus makes reference to or fictionalises a number of significant politicalfigures.
Adichie has acknowledged that Ade Coker's life and death are allusions to both the murdered journalist Dele Giwa and Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa was a poet andauthor who spoke out on behalf of the Ogoni people against the environmentaldevastation caused by massive oil drilling in their ancestral homeland. Saro-Wiwawas an outspoken critic of the government during Abacha's rule and was arrested andhanged.
Amaka's favourite musician, Fela Ransome Kuti, is one of Nigeria's most well-knownmusicians. Kuti, like Papa, received his education in England. Kuti pioneeredAfrobeat, a musical genre that fuses jazz and traditional African rhythms. He railedagainst his upbringing's colonial mentality and argued for both a return to tradition and democracy. Several times, he was arrested, beaten, and tortured for openlycriticising the government. His music's popularity was viewed as a threat to themilitary establishment.