The Symbolism of Nature in Purple Hibiscus
Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus explores the life of a wealthy Nigerian family with the protagonist Kambili, a young girl who tries to find her own voice in an oppressive society and home. Throughout the novel, the author uses a number of symbols to convey her ideas. In Purple Hibiscus, Adichie uses symbolism through nature and pathetic fallacy to reflect the development of the story and character’s growth.
During many occasions in the novel, the red and purple hibiscuses play an important role in the eyes of Kambili and Jaja, but also in the novel as a whole. The purple flowers have been described as “rare, fragrant with the undertones of freedom” (16), which also conveys their importance and uniqueness. Before “things started to fall apart” (3), the hibiscuses were still a vibrant red color, showing that they have not fully bloomed and that freedom has not yet settled in the family. Red, a color with a symbolism of anger and violence, haunts Kambili through her childhood as she has to clean her mother’s blood after an abusive episode. Kambili cannot focus after a long period of time afterwards and can only read with “the black typed blurred, the letters swimming into one another, and then changed to a bright red, the red of fresh blood” (35). As for the red hibiscuses, they symbolize the family’s oppression, since the only way Papa keeps his wife and children in control is through his violence. The children only see the purple hibiscuses when they visit Aunty Ifeoma in Nsukka, and they are surprised since “[they] didn’t know there were [any]” (128). Not only did Kambili and Jaja discover a new flower when they arrive to Nsukka, they also find out what true freedom is. By seeing how Aunty Ifeoma lives with Amaka and Obiora, Jaja and Kambili notice that their lives are strict and controlled unlike their cousins’, who have the freedom to do whatever they like. To Jaja, the purple hibiscuses signify hope that something new can exist, such as a new life without Papa’s rules. He takes a stalk of the flowers with him back home and plants them in the garden in hope that freedom will soon come through. Adichie foreshadows Jaja’s rebellious decisions from the moment he notices the rare flowers to him refusing to go to communion, which leads to Papa throwing a “missal across the room” (3). From that point on, the flowers “started to push out sleepy buds,” even though most were “still on the red ones” (9). As the purple hibiscuses start bloom, so does Jaja’s rebellion towards Papa, which reveals the way the flowers symbolize Jaja’s growth as a character.
Throughout the novel, Kambili’s attitude towards nature changes as she matures, but it also reflects her inner turmoil and joy. Whilst staying in Nsukka, Kambili discovers an earthworm “slithering in the bathtub” (232). Before taking her bath, she picked it up, and “threw it in the toilet” (233) without flushing it, even though she knew Obiora was fascinated by worms. Instead of dealing with the crawling insect, she decides to remove it. The earthworm symbolizes Kambili’s mood, in this case her turmoil, and demonstrates how she is uncertain of her feelings throughout the course of the novel and decides to put them aside instead of confronting them. Whilst getting her hair done, Kambili notices a snail in an open basket. She watched the creature as it was “crawling out, being thrown back in, and then crawling out [of the basket] again” (238), and realizes that she shares similarities to it. Kambili is also trapped inside her own type of basket – her father’s home- and crawls towards freedom just like the snail, but keeps getting pushed back in. She grows in strength and maturity with the love of Aunty Ifeoma and Father Amadi, who bring out the best of her. Later in the novel, she bathes once again, but this time leaves the earthworms alone. By coexisting with the worms and bathing with the “scent of the sky” (270), Kambili learns to love her surroundings and honor the natural world. Her joy gets revealed while she sings and bathes after being with Father Amadi, and it also reveals that she no longer depends on her haunting memories and has found her own voice despite her family’s oppression. Kambili grows into a more mature young girl, and this is demonstrated through symbolism of the snails and earthworms, and also how she finally finds her voice.
Adichie also plays with pathetic fallacy in Purple Hibiscus to symbolize different characters’ thoughts. After Palm Sunday, “howling winds came with an angry rain” (258) which uproot trees and make the satellite dish crash. The use of pathetic fallacy reflects the similarities between the weather and the atmosphere in the Achike’s household, right after the communion Jaja missed. Moreover, the “purple hibiscuses [were] about to bloom” (253) symbolize Jaja’s decisions on missing communion and becoming more free. The author also uses pathetic fallacy during Ade Cocker’s death, when “it rained heavily . . . [and there was] strange, furious rain” (206). The heavy rains symbolize the difficult and depressive state Papa goes through further in the novel due to his friend’s death. At the end of the novel, after Mama and Kambili visit Jaja in prison, the clouds are described “like dyed cotton wool [hanging] low” (307), which give them a sense of ambiguity, not knowing whether they are symbolized as hopeful or ominous. Furthermore, Adichie uses specific nature imagery to describe Kambili’s thoughts on her future. Kambili imagines that she will “plant new orange trees . . . and Jaja will plant purple hibiscuses, too” (306). Kambili still finds hope within her that Jaja will be out of jail soon, and that they will all go to Abba. The hope that Jaja will do so conveys that he brought freedom into his home by planting the purple hibiscuses, even though his own freedom was taken away from him.
By using pathetic fallacy, imagery and symbolism throughout the novel, Adichie develops the plot and characters’ growth. The red and purple hibiscuses symbolize the freedom versus oppression in the novel and how Jaja dealt with it. Kambili’s maturity, which is symbolized through nature, reflects her inner confusion and happiness about her life. The use of pathetic fallacy reveals different characters’ thoughts through the novel. Adichie reveals characters’ inner thoughts and actions by symbolizing them through nature.
Religion Issues in Purple Hibiscus
Focal points are important components of life. Just as the earth revolves on an axis around the sun, so too does the Church calendar revolve around significant events, of which Palm Sunday is one. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie draws on this focus in her novel, Purple Hibiscus. Commencing at a Palm Sunday family dinner, the novel details the events that led to this point in time and concludes with the present – Palm Sunday. In doing so, Adichie uses the symbology of color and conflict to dramatic effect. The richness and relevance of the purples and reds combined with the ever-present religious theme of conflict exhibited through the Old and New Testaments.
Papa is a Catholic caught in the Old Testament. His view of the world is unbending: He would hold his eyes shut so hard that his face tightened into a grimace (4). In the eyes of those who know him he is a perfect model of Christianity, as Father Benedict usually referred to the pope, Papa, and Jesus in that order. He used Papa to illustrate the gospels (4). Papa; however, is not a Christian nor has he made a successful transition into the teachings of the New Testament. His behavior and the manner in which he treats his family are inconsistent with Christian ideals and create a false impression that only those closest to him can see.
The symbology associated with this story being told on Palm Sunday amplifies this religious contradiction. Palm Sunday is a key event in the New Testament and represents the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, [where] he greeted the people crowed around him (29). Ironically, this entry represents the start of his decline and eventual suffering and death, known as the passion; when they took him away (291). In reality; however, it is not Jesus who is subjected to the suffering of the passion but rather Jaja, who is the sacrificial lamb for this religious conflict. Just as Christ was without sin and paid for humanitys sins with his life, so too is Jajas innocence similarly treated.
The tragic ending of the Passion is therefore lived out with Jajas demise: an innocent person suffering for the actions of others. Unlike his father, Jaja has transitioned to the ideals and beliefs of the new testament and is therefore able to turn the other cheek in taking the blame for his fathers death; a father who himself was never able to understand true Christian ideals.
Jajas tragedy and suffering is further enhanced through the use of dramatic color. The title Purple Hibiscus is, in itself, significant. Purple is the traditional color of royalty. It is also the color within the church that denotes sadness and suffering at the time of lent. The uniqueness of a purple hibiscus is therefore symbolic of the particular suffering to which Jaja subjects himself.
At another level, purple is used to describe Beatrices swollen eye [that] was still the black-purple color of an overripe avocado (10-11), symbolizing the needles of pain and suffering (211). Purple, in the Christian church, is the liturgical color for the Season of Lent: the time when Jesus suffers on the cross. These needles of pain can be associated with the nails on the cross. However, purple can also have a noble, royal meaning one that is powerful: the purple plants had started to push out sleepy buds (9), they had begun to evolve into a more powerful state. Although not mentioned directly, Jaja the one who sacrifices himself in the end can be seen as having this nobility: establishing this power.
Red is also a prominent color in Purple Hibiscus originally symbolizing the blood of martyrs of the Church: Red was the color of Pentecost (28), recognition of the coming of Christ through tongues of fire, following his resurrection. It is also the color exclusively worn by Cardinals of the Church to denote their power and authority in the context of Christian beliefs. The mixture of this royal color with the imagery of blood is combined on Palm Sunday to foretell what is about to happen to Jesus. He is beaten, ridiculed, and put to death for something he did not do, in the same way that Beatrice is continually beaten to the stage where she commits a sin; a sin for which Jaja accepts responsibility even though it is something he did not do. Jesus died for all mankind. Jaja sacrifices his life for his family. The vibrant bushes of hibiscus reached out and touched one another as if they were exchanging their petals (9), exchanging trust, exchanging a sign of peace.
Adichie uses both religion and color to parallel her story, Purple Hibiscus, and the journey that the characters take. Set on Palm Sunday, it draws upon one of the most significant Christian festivals to highlight Jajas sacrifice; an innocent person condemned for the sins of others. But it also highlights the struggle of traditional Catholics who cannot move beyond the Old Testament, as seen with Papa. A deeply religious man, his religion blinds him to the fundamentals of Christian behavior. To create a more dramatic effect, however, Adichie blends this conflict with the rich sacred colors of royalty and suffering, namely purple and red. By doing this, she highlights the reverence associated with these colors as well as the pain and suffering they can bring. In its imagery, the novel is rich, unique and innocent. It is, in truth, a purple hibiscus.
Gender Roles Issues In Purple Hibiscus Novel
Paper II: Purple Hibiscus
To what extent do male and female literary characters accurately reflect the role of men and women in society?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uses dominance, control and power to accurately reflect the role of male literary characters and silence and oppression to reflect the role of female literary characters in society in Purple Hibiscus. Eugene Achike has power over his family, companies and newspaper which leads to a desire of abusive control which can be seen through his family relationships. Obiora and Jaja assume the role of dominance, like an older son who was lacking a father figure and cared about the well-being of his family would. Beatrice Achike nurtures her children and plans for them, regardless of the abuse and oppression she undergoes due to her husband.
Eugene Achike, referred to as Papa, is one of the main characters present in Purple Hibiscus. He is the father of Kambili, the narrator of the book. Papa is dedicated to his religious studies, as well as his snack companies and being the editor of the newspaper he works for. Kambili is talking about the new baby while characterizing her father when she says, “Kambili was written in bold letters on top of the white sheet of paper, just as Jaja was written on the schedule about Jaja’s desk in his room…Papa liked order.” (pg.23) Papa wanting order or control in the household is similar to the stereotypical role of men in a household. In many forms of literature, men are perceived as the “bread-winners.” According to dictionary.com, a bread-winner a person supporting a family with his or her earnings. This can be seen again when Kambili doesn’t place first in her class and her father takes her to school to look for Chinwe Jideze and points out the fact that she only has one head, the same advantages that Kambili has, so Chinwe should not do any better than Kambili. “’Why do you think I work so hard to give you and Jaja the best? You have to do something with all these privileges,’” (pg. 47) shows Papa believes the structural influence he puts in Kambili’s and Jaja’s life is beneficial, since when he was growing up he didn’t have these privileges of a private Christian school or transportation from a personal driver.
Another example of how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s characters reflect gender roles in society is the relationship between Obiora and Aunty Ifeoma. Similar to the controlling, bread-winner role Papa has on his family, it is a western cliché that if the father is missing from the family, the oldest son will assume that role. On page 74, it is revealed that Amaka’s, Obiora’s and Chiaku’s father got into a car accident, and that was the reason he was not present in their lives. When Kambili and Jaja are visiting Nsukka, Obiora tells Amaka to stop being mean to Kambili, siphons fuel for Aunty Ifeoma’s car and slaughters chickens for his family. This shows dominance and responsibility within Obiora, where he assumes a role within his family, something that Jaja wishes he had. Towards the end of the story, after Papa dies and Mama is broken, Jaja says “I should have taken care of Mama. Look how Obiora balances Aunty Ifeoma’s family on his head, and I am older than he is. I should have taken care of Mama.” (pg. 289) Jaja feels this need of dominance like his father, earlier in the book when he kneels next to his mother on Palm Sunday and helps her pick up the broken ballet figurines and tells her to be careful, like a caring husband might do for his wife. This also can be seen when Jaja takes the blame for his father’s death.
A female character which accurately reflects the role of women in society is Beatrice Achike, also known as Mama. Not all married women are sheltered and silent, and subjects of marital abuse, however the majority of mothers are caring and want what is best for their children. This can be seen many times from Kambili’s perspective. Mama’s characterization begins when Kambili is in her room studying and Mama brings her uniforms in so that they wouldn’t get rained on. Mama and Kambili share a moment, like any other relationship between a mother and daughter, when Mama tells Kambili she is pregnant. When Kambili and Jaja come home from Nsukka, and their father pours boiling water on their feet for walking into sin, Mama is there to comfort Kambili afterwards. “Tears were running down her face…She mixed salt with cold water and gently plastered the gritty mixture onto my feet. She helped me out of the tub, made to carry me on her back to my room, but I shook my head…” (pg. 195) This shows Mama assuming the role of a woman, of a mother, the role to be caring and protective of her children. Finally, Mama chooses to protect her children by killing the man who oppressed and abused them since they were little. “’I started putting poison in his tea before I came to Nsukka…,’” (pg. 290) Mama tells her questioning children. We can assume that she did this because of the harm he was inflicting on her and her children.
Throughout Purple Hibiscus, the gender roles between the characters stays constant. One is able to see the inborn struggles between each character and the problems that are caused because of each struggle. The oppression of the Mama and the care Mama gives to her children accurately represents female roles in society. The power struggle in Papa is also extremely evident with the way he treats everyone in the family. Obiora’s need to care for his family when his father is not present also shows a role of a young man in society. Adichie does a great job representing each facet in the roles of each character.
Life of Kambili in Purple Hibiscus
Explore How Kambili Shows a Search for Herself, Linking the Extract to Purple Hibiscus as a Whole
A search for self in my opinion is the idea of an individual discovering what he/she truly wants and discovering your true identity of what makes you individual, by building your own identity and choosing which paths to follow. For Kambili search for self is a journey that comes from being at her Aunties house in Nsukka, who’s way of life inspires Kambili and Jaja to rethink their own upbringing.
Kambili’s admiration for Father Amadi is at the centre of the passage and we discover first hand what Kambili is feeling, giving us a more reliable account of her thoughts. This is true through out the novel, Adichie uses the form and structure of an autobiography almost as Kambili is the narrator, allowing us to know truly her thoughts and feelings towards other characters, in this passage it is Father Amadi. Kambili shows a search for self as she is at the age where she is beginning to find members of the opposite sex attractive and due to her strict upbringing this is something she feels that is wrong as she shouldn’t feel, “I did not look down at his tank top on my lap” suggests she feels too guilty to even look at fathers Amadi’s tank top he has given to her.
The use of descriptive language from Kambili also shows how she is studying Father Amadi’s body in a lustful way, “Upper body bare, his shoulders were a broad square” tells us Kambili is looking closely at his body, as well as this quotation rhyming which to me suggests that Kambili is so love struck by Father Amadi she is speaking in rhyme. The use of simile’s enforces Kambili’s admiration for Father Amadi, “like a rooster in charge of all the neighbourhood hens” and “his voice was smoother than the lead singer’s on the tape”.
Kambili’s change in personality around Father Amadi is also prevalent in the passage as we see a distinct change in her personality prior to her trip to Nsukka. Kambili has always been a socially awkward girl who has trouble speaking to new people, or in front of large groups. An example of this is on page 48, “I opened my mouth but the words would not come out”, this is when Kambili is asked to recite the school pledge which she knows but her social anxiety restricts her from speaking. Father Amadi is able to bring Kambili out of her shell and have a conversation with her, she even feels comfortable enough to ask why he became a priest, which is complete contrast with her usual family meals where she or Jaja are not allowed to ask questions as they please. This change in confidence Kambili shows is a big step in her search for self I believe.
“I nodded although I could not remember” shows Kambili is almost so mesmerised by Father Amadi’s company that she nods instinctively just to agree with what he is talking about, this nodding shows a different personality trait to the nodding Kambili does as the music in the car is playing: “I nodded in time to the chorus”, this kind of nodding shows Kambili feeling comfortable enough to express herself, something that we see little of prior to this moment due to her harsh parental rule.
Another physical trait that changes and plays a huge role in Kambili’s search for self is she begins to smile and laugh. When at home with her family she never had any real reason to smile, however since visiting her Aunty Ifeoma, who is characterised many times for having a long distinctive laugh, Kambili begins to inherit her Aunties traits and becomes a happier person who isn’t afraid to show her emotions. “she wanted to smile but could not” is an example of how Kambili knows what she wants but her body physically wont let her do it, much like her inability to speak sometimes, on page 139 Father Amadi states that he hasn’t seen Kambili laugh or smile today, something that would be noticeable when surrounded by her positive, outgoing cousins.
However, Kambili overcomes this later in the passage when she does laugh and smile, “I laughed, it sounded strange”, this is the first time in the novel that Kambili laughs and is so unfamiliar to her that she isn’t sure if she has ever heard herself laugh. “I smiled, I smiled again”, Kambili is essentially smiling that she is smiling in this quote, telling us how much she likes this change in character that she is experiencing. Events like this may seem small but are significant to Kambili finding who she really is by surrounding herself with people she cares about.
Listing is used at the bottom of page 177 when Kambili is listing what she can see, this long list makes me think that Kambili is overwhelmed by Father Amadi and is so excited she doesn’t want to pause for breath, which again isn’t something we have seen in Kambili before, as she is being allowed to express herself more she is finding things that get her excited. Of course the only way we are able to know Kambili’s thoughts are because the novel is written from her perspective allowing us to know exactly what is going through her head at different moments.
Lastly the rhetorical question on page 180, “didn’t he know that I didn’t want him to leave, ever?” is showing the fact that Kambili is still too shy and unsure how to talk to Father Amadi so looks for advice from within herself, or even asking us, the reader to help her. This idea to me seems as though she still has a long way to go before she truly finds exactly who she is and is able to fulfil the potential that she clearly possesses.
Controversial Cultural Issues in Purple Hibiscus Novel
The monster under our bed, the boogey man in our closet, or the tough bully at school that everyone runs away from out of fear; psychological terrors experienced at a young age, whether we realize the fact early on or not, shape and define our mental progression. Kambili’s abusive father prohibits her from rebelling, and as a result for most of her life she limits herself and what she believes she can or cannot do. Speaking, to Kambili at least, remains a privilege granted only to those who do not worry about disappointing those that they rely on. Surrounding her own self-doubt flows a sea of cultural influences, good and bad; some help Kambili find her way, and some curb her ability to grow into a young woman. Within Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, cultural characteristics of modern Nigeria play a role in the development of the central character, Kambili, and help to define societal norms and interactions, alongside revealing how outside pressures impact Kambili’s mental growth.
Some may say that the end result of cultural stresses, individualistic expression, makes hard times worth their caused aches and pains, and in the novel Purple Hibiscus this remains a key concept. When Kambili and Jaja travel to Aunty Ifeoma’s they discover a family with an abundance of opinions, such a stark difference from the silent and quite often reserved state of their own house most of the time. In fact, Kambili’s comfortability within the situation at first could be characterized as shaky and awkward, yet as she spent more time with her extended family she realized “speaking seemed to define all that they did” (Hewett 10). In contrast under Eugene’s strict hand and demanding fist, talking openly and voicing your opinions did not suffice. For this reason Kambili, (used to a household built around the concept of silence), took advantage of opportunities to showcase herself individually and uniquely while at Aunty Ifeoma’s. At one point Kambili and Amaka argue over a yam, and for the first time in her life Kambili stands up for herself. Of course one could deduce that the pent up anger from years of abuse led her to finally blow, and even by the mini meltdown she experienced Kambili grew. This one development actually acted as a catalyst for Kambili’s future character growth, as the argument ended up encouraging her to take a stand in other areas of her life. From this one could note that a connection between the expression of individualism and oppression does indeed exist. After this occurred Kambili developed a sense of self more rapidly, and in a way her father’s abusiveness also propelled her along the journey to discover the person buried deep within her. For example, Kambili forms a crush on Father Amadi, and soon falls in love with him. The very fact that she felt brave enough to do this speaks volumes about the level of personal and character growth she experienced in such a short time. “Father Amadi brings up past anxieties and fears for people such as Father Benedict and Eugene,” as her represents a movement away from old colonial ways back into seemingly sinful tendencies. The last thing her father—Eugene—would want would be these two getting together in a relationship, and Kambili, who usually plays the role of the obedient and studious daughter, simply does not care.
Even though struggling through life does not guarantee that you will become a better person, knowing how adversity feels helps one to formulate better and stronger choices for their futures. Take Kambili again for instance: she at one point could not ever consider doing anything to defile the image of her Papa, yet in the end, even though her love for Papa did not fade, she developed a more real view of her situation and refused to experience victimization at the hands of her father again. The issues of domestic violence within a post-colonial Nigeria remain a topic explored by third-generation Nigerian novelists, simply because of the magnitude of mistreatment within their present day society (Ojaide 45). Adichie did not break the chain, and her portrayal of Kambili strikes similar to the molding of an object from clay: first raw and formless, yet quick to take shape and dry.
The battle between Catholicism and Paganism played a strong, central role within the family life of Kambili and Jaja, and at times the harsh feelings Eugene felt about the matter threatened to end their family and oftentimes threatened their lives. The British colonization of Nigeria left more than just physical scars; the entire landscape lay ravaged by emotional discourse, as even with the removal of British power, many Nigerians disagreed about what the predominant culture should be. Most upper class individuals, such as Eugene, sided with Catholicism and typically avoided traditional pagan practices altogether. Adichie mirrored this wide-scale national conflict with the contrast and dichotomy between Aunty Ifeoma and Eugene; Aunty Ifeoma, with her care-free spirit and loose ways reflects the passions of Nigerians who want to release the influence European Catholicism possesses over Nigerian culture, while Eugene with his bold and strict nature reflects the ideas and ideals of the elite who desperately want to keep Catholicism in order to maintain some semblance of authority and power over their communities. This division can also be seen when the socio-economic factors and differences between these two characters are examined, as typically the wealthy strongly supported British Catholicism, while the poor typically aimed their support towards traditional Igbo ways. As Hron points out, “Adichie uses Eugene’s fascination with western society to point a finger at the British mimicry that continues to define a major part of Nigerian society” (31). Whether or not Eugene’s reason for choosing to support the past stemmed from past horrors or just and general greed for wealth, he conveyed a sort of obsession with making sure that his life appeared immaculate and pristine. Eugene even copies the punishments of the white priests who scalded him for doing something sinful, choosing to scald and burn the hands and feet of his children when they disobeyed him or did something wrong. The very fact that he could do something like this to his own children emphasizes the fact that to most people within this society, choosing religious or political beliefs did not involve a personal decision, just one that led to one’s own prosperity. The surrounding political setting of Nigeria parallels the conflict inside of Eugene’s ‘perfect’ household, as violence due to conflicting beliefs happens within both settings (Dawes 84). The contrast between Nsukka and Kambili’s hometown also serves a purpose in identifying cultural tensions, as the two areas both represent two different states of mind currently residing within Nigeria. Nsukka remains a place of complex cultural and social aspects—this place held Aunty Ifeoma and her family—as most individuals living here were poor and firmly opposed the rich people who want to hold onto stringent British ways. Catholicism in this space remains negotiated into a more free-form role by religious innovators, such as Father Amadi, who deemphasize the practices of the religion and tend to focus more on the importance of living morally and in a true manner; this infuriates those back in Kambili’s home town, of course. Meanwhile back in Enugu, Kambili’s home, Eugene and his mindless, drone-like followers preach about the evil of returning to old ways, as they believe that doing so will desecrate their society and the roles they currently hold. This mindset obviously ruins the relationship many families, such as Eugene and Aunty Ifeoma, once possessed. These two once lived in the same house, knew that same parents and shared a life together, yet this internal war of beliefs going on within Nigeria did not seem to struggle in its effort to tear them apart, and in the end the war won. Aunty Ifeoma and Eugene remained as broken as ever, and their opinions on the topic did not loosen in their fervor. Additionally, this internal war wreaked havoc within Kambili’s house as well, as when she started to drift away from all of Papa’s teachings, Papa became more violent and an even bigger chasm began to form, separating her from her father even more. Because the war devastated her family life, Kambili’s decision to define herself with the true characteristics of Nigerian culture suddenly became an even bolder choice. Kambili did not let Catholicism bury her true personality in the end, instead she chose to let the best characteristics of both Catholicism and Paganism shine through her. Coming-of-age within the midst of internal cultural strife remains difficult, but could be rewarding if one chooses to make nonbiased, intelligent decisions.
The advent of body language in helping the audience understand the importance of common mannerisms within a culture truly remains relevant, and within Kambili’s story we can see the importance of body language reflected throughout her understanding of life. As a result of their limited living environment, Kambili and her brother Jaja developed a wordless way to communicate through eye contact. The silence within their house oftentimes represented an impenetrable wall, and so these small gestures usually conveyed the only way that they could ‘say’ what they really thought about certain things. This phenomenon does not get lost in the real world though, as young children, isolated from society and subjected to emotional and psychological abuse tend to choose other ways to communicate with the world at large. Even people with Autism, (in the cases where the individual experiences sensory overload), decide to talk with others in a way that does not involve speaking. Kambili leaves behind her dependence on communicating without speaking and gradually becomes more comfortable with talking for herself, something that surely developed while she and her brother Jaja visited their Aunty Ifeoma.
The actual language Kambili’s voice or Adichie uses throughout the novel adds extra emphasis to the growth Kambili achieves, as her language and word choice seems to mature as she does. Kambili’s childlike and sophomoric language ingeniously betrays the criticisms she feels for her father; for example, when Kambili described Eugene’s piety at communion in a childish nature. The kid-like comedic descriptions downplays the father’s seriousness, and yet at the same time his cruelty and meticulousness remains emphasized and very definitive. Also, Adichie constantly analyzes the opposing dichotomies by bringing attention to the varying points of view, (Kambili’s different viewpoints before and after her maturation), and the child’s perspective lies paired with that of the young adult perspective of the audience. Kambili remains obviously confused, as she idolizes her father, even though he beats her; this can be related to her childlike dependence upon him. Eugene not only provides Kambili with a house, but he literally determines her life, and future, and to her, he does represent somewhat of a god—Kambili even mentions at some point that she refused to compare him to anyone because doing so soiled him. Going back to the importance of language though, upon arrival to Nsukka, Kambili can best be characterized as infantile-like, or incapable of speech. She seems to not be capable of physically allowing words to leave the recesses of her mouth, and this silence could be compared to the silence of her father’s followers and congregation.
Kambili also possesses the ability to detect, with just the quiver of an eye, whether or not he will attack her or her brother. Her ability to determine the outcome of such situations can be paralleled to possessing some amount of influence over her growth at Aunty Ifeoma’s—ironically enough, though, Eugene’s story remains one of an accelerating deterioration. Eugene’s openness and comfort in his own home remains obviously expressed in a brash and violent manner, showing that he hides himself from people who usually admire him. Those individuals do not question the decisions and statements made by Eugene—or omelora, as they call him—and as a result they portray the part of society that remains unwilling to communicate or take a stand. Whilst plenty of crises occur, there will remain a group of individuals who do not want to rise up against their oppressors. As long as this group continues to persist within societies, movements towards making the world a better place will remain stagnant, and Adichie combats this in her novel. Adichie portrays the concept of not speaking as a negative, which she does by giving the silent nature of Kambili’s household a dark connotation. Adichie hopes to encourage the bravery of young voices everywhere that remain shrouded behind oppressive figures and forces.
Within life, many factors such as love, obsessive behaviors, and violence impact how we turn out, and the future decisions that we as individuals will make. For Kambili, specifically, the abuse blocked her mentally and physically. She developed habits of distrust, and in a way the abuse from her father Eugene lowered her self-confidence as well, as even the concept of picking out what university she would attend seemed to scare her to no avail. However, despite all the damage done to Kambili by her horrible father, the trip to Nsukka and the visit with her Aunty Ifeoma put a positive influence on her life, and led Kambili to find an outlet out of her despair. Once Kambili acknowledged her grandfather—Papa Nnukwu—the tables turned, and she suddenly started becoming more accepting of other people and cultures outside of her own compound walls. Listening to Papa Nnukwu’s storytelling helps her to understand different practices and values, and the importance of expanding her world, beyond the small enclosure of Enugu.
Kambili, in the process of discovering these universal truths, transformed from a nature characterized by shyness to one characterized by boldness and a newfound confidence. Additionally, Kambili’s infatuation with Father Amadi provided Kambili with the tools to grow up. As soon as she arrived at Aunty Ifeoma’s and saw Father Amadi, Kambili fell head-over-heels in love with him and his personality. In fact, everyone at Aunty Ifeoma’s remained aware of the love Father Amadi possessed for her, and the fact that she meant the absolute world to him. The aspect of love, in this case, did sort of parallel that of a powerful drug for Kambili; the love blinded her to the criticisms that her father would usually make, and allowed her to finally deeply accept someone for who they were. This just goes to show that perhaps love plays a strong part in our development and maturation; most of us love ourselves—not in a selfish way—but when we find someone who we can love just as we love ourselves, our ability to treat others respectfully, and our confidence bursts.
Father Amadi’s role remains justified as a rather complex character, and serves a more dynamic role than just helping her gain her confidence; he possessed some connections to father as well. Eugene relied on a blanket of silence to keep his violence from leaking out, and Father Amadi challenges this, as he transforms into Kambili’s champion. The fact that Father Amadi supported paganism by singing songs in Eugene’s church angered him extremely, and the incident goes to show that when one’s own safe or familiar territory becomes threatened, we as people tend to lash out. Seeing as the story remains one about the growth of Kambili and the deterioration of her father, we can clearly see the contrast Adichie tried to express here, as she emphasized Eugene’s increasingly erratic behavior unravel, and the spiraling out of his mental sanity. Father Amadi also represents a sort of Nigerian Gothic love as Kambili’s father would never approve of him, and thus Father Amadi remains fated to experience separation from Kambili (Mabura 217). Doomed from the start, Father Amadi and Kambili’s relationship served to flush Kambili’s emotional senses; her whole life her father did not love her, and now she gained the capability to spend time with a strong male figure who cared about her in a way that she always wished her dad would. Kambili at this point realized what the actual role of a man should be in her life: a kind, caring, and compassionate individual. Within upper class Nigeria family ties tend to be looser, as opposed to the stronger binds holding together some of the poorer families. Adichie’s use of their love story pointed a light at the usually covered up tragedy of neglect in Nigerian households. The tragic end to the brief love affair may wear on the audience’s heart, but the legacy of their love and the places the emotional growth led Kambili can be considered well worth the heartbreak.
Eugene’s obsessive behavior led Kambili to realize the importance of taking advantage of better situations. For most of her childhood Kambili experienced bullying at the hands of the man who did not understand that he inhabited the human form of evil. To understand how and why the abuse helped her, in a way, first you must grasp the paradox of Eugene. Eugene can be clearly seen as a wealthy factory owner, Catholic, a philanthropist who gives to the needy so frequently that he earned the prestigious title of omelora. In addition to this Eugene also controls the newspaper, and subsequently the information put out to the masses, and somewhere along the way Eugene wins a human rights award for his political activism. Once back inside his humble abode a monster emerges, and the change in the level of comfort causes a change in his behavior. Eugene, in a way, can be paralleled to a werewolf, charismatically charming the villagers and townsfolk in the daytime and mercilessly slaying young, innocent lambs in the night. This sort of behavior, given by Adichie, belies a certain social insanity and emotional uncertainty wracking his brain. Kambili, subjected to this behavior from birth, would not only be de-sensitized to such horrible attributes, but would unconsciously shy away from situations that could lead her down a dark path. When forced to combat terrible wrongs, humans push on, learning from situations. The concept remains simple: once that stove burns your little, innocent hand, you will never trust another heated stove again.
The concept and aspect of guilt plays with one’s inner conscious, toying with our level of comfortability, and ultimately blinding us until truth no longer remains within our line of sight. Jaja taking the blame for the death of Eugene helped Kambili solidify why she should care about her family, even though due to his extreme guilt, (Jaja feels as though he should be the one to blame for the abuse of their father), Jaja will never truly understand the significance of what he did (Mabura 220). The ultimate sacrifice, Jaja personified Eugene’s last ditch effort to destroy and conquer, as even in his death he felt the need to ruin the life of someone else; even in his death the father can be abusive. One could argue that Eugene’s ability to push on and continue his reign of terror on Kambili, Beatrice and Jaja can be attributed to the fact that he did not ever feel guilt for the harsh and unreasonable things that he did to them.
The role of the wife in Nigerian culture remains one of no power—typically—and usually can be characterized by the general society as one of servitude to your husband. Kambili’s mother, Beatrice, embodies the type of motherly figure that represents the issues that happen to coincide with the femininity that Kambili must one day face. Beatrice, in this way, can be seen as the ghost or shadow of what Kambili may experience in the future at the hands of a violent partner if she does not grow a backbone and change. Eugene’s constant physical and emotional abuse of Beatrice, although while could be seen as the simple act of him taking advantage of his wife and her body, the abuse drives beyond that. Their violent relationship reveals a fear of sexuality within Eugene, and as a result he strives to isolate take over her femininity and role within society by controlling every aspect of their marriage (Mabura 219). Thus, the end of the novel, where Beatrice finally gets her comeuppance and poisons the tea of Eugene remains a way that she used to reclaim all the power and dignity that her husband spent nearly his life trying to strip away from her. Adichie, a female writer, did not randomly choose to create a female protagonist, or to center much of her story on domestic violence and the issues pertaining to such terrors. Nigeria, although relinquished from the shackles of British colonialism, still experiences the issues pertaining to equality for not just social classes, but Adichie chose to combat these patriarchal tendencies and as a result created a work that focused on the empowerment of women in many areas. Kambili, until she matures, remains a shy timid little girl, uneager to communicate, and desperately afraid of disappointing the male figures in her life. Papa, Father Amadi, and Jaja; all three of these men hold some sort of power, authority, and/or control over Kambili’s life, and yet gradually her reliance on the emotions and words spoken by these men dwindles significantly, and when she finds her own voice, well, these men all knew that she changed somehow. Specifically pertaining to her father though, Kambili remains perplexed by the end of her childhood deity: Eugene. She could not even grasp the concept that a man such as Papa could die, and she increasingly drew upon old habits of doubt in this matter, refusing to mentally and emotionally accept that the psychological terrors and horrors of her younger years finally past.
Opening with, “things fell apart”, right away the audience feels a sense of dread, and a constant motif of falling uncontrollably, waiting for the end to arrive. The act of Eugene throwing the missal at Jaja and breaking the étagère represented the falling apart of the rigid system of Catholicism that Eugene set up in his dystopia. This étagère also represent the end of Eugene’s power, as even in his rage Eugene throws the holy book—and surely by his unreasonable standards that act enough contained enough sin to deport him to hell. Along with the degradation of Eugene’s harsh system comes the erosion and fading away of the colonialism that the system tries to emulate and maintain. Eugene and Catholicism possessed a strong and thriving relationship, as the religion carried the basis for which he justified his rules and control. Eugene remains extremely and devoutly Catholic, and this obsession with the religion amounts to a devotion with the remnants of the British colonial order; he uses his abuse in an attempt to deal with the cultural, emotional, and ideological demons of his past (Dawes 84).
The quality of Adichie’s prose helps emphasize this as well, as her diction at times conveys a certain confidence, and the body of the work carries a strong current of emotional intelligence running throughout the work, that serves to draw the audience into her story and allows them to comprehend the complexity of the mind of a man like Eugene. Kambili, and her role as the child helps with this as well, as even with her childlike diction she gives a strong, critical position. The space of childhood remains flexible, and a time of resistance. Moving from childhood to adulthood can be attributed to a hybrid state, where your understanding of your environment happens to possess a higher concept, but your point-of-view skews the madness. This effect belies what happened to Kambili, as she could not perceive the concept of Eugene as a bad man even though he did bad things.
Adichie, a prominent third-generation Nigerian author, explored controversial cultural issues within her coming of age novel, and due to her ingenious diction, the audience could receive the information just as Kambili would: through the naiveté of a sheltered little girl in an immense, broad society. Eugene’s choice to champion British Catholicism would eventually lead him to his demise, even though throughout the years he got away with a lot. His crazed obsession weirdly enough made him mad about tea—because of the cultural relevance of tea in British culture—yet little did Eugen know that the very drink which he associated with his own power, glory, and authority would bring him to his downfall, as Beatrice killed him by poisoning the tea. The complexity of the cultural issues dealing with class, confidence, religion, colonialism, and patriarchy define Nigerian society, but as Adichie hopes, these will never define the Nigerian experience.
Feminism Issues In The Yellow Wallpaper And Purple Hibiscus Novels
Throughout many works of literature one can find overlying themes that carry throughout multiple texts. Along with this an expanse of literary techniques are used commonly among credible works of literature. While novels, novellas, or short stories may have a different overall message or storyline they may share a common ideas such as, feminism, Marxism or post-modernism. An example of this occurrence is shown throughout the paralleled ideas of feminism in the short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “Purple Hibiscus”, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Both stories share cultural themes of feminism and overcome the issue of being treated as inferior to men in their society.
Forever in our society, women have been both underestimated and treated as if they are fragile or weak. This is the case for the female characters in the story Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Unlike Adichie’s real life morals, the protagonist Kambili was accustomed to the seemingly patriarchal society that exists throughout Nigeria, due to the actions of her grotesquely conservative father. Similarly to Kamibili’s position under her father’s superiority complex, Beatrice, Kambili’s mother, also deals with the struggle of living under the wrath of her husband. For years and years, Beatrice has dealt with Eugene and his abuse, not only emotionally, but also physically and sexually. Whether it be through her “necessary beatings” in repentance for her “sins” or when Eugene beats the life out of Beatrice’s growing fetus, rather than going through the embarrassment of having an abortion Eugene has complete control over her life. As a man of fortune and power, Eugene feels as if it is his place to determine his wife’s right and wrongdoing and thus create his own form of punishment, often times being abuse.
Interestingly enough the author herself identifies herself as a feminist, making the weakness of Beatrice, in the beginning of the story, a contradictory character to the author herself. Coming from a woman, when giving a speech about how to create gender equality, who once said,
And this is how to start. We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently. We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity becomes this hard small cage and we put boys inside the cage. We teach boys to be afraid of fear. We teach boys to be afraid of weakness, of vulnerability. (Adichie) it is difficult to understand how she could write a story focused on how the masculinity of a powerful man has such an extreme grasp on the life of his wife and daughter. However, Adichie writes a tale of the feminine hardship women face in Nigeria because it is what she knows and understands to be accurate to the lifestyle of a Nigerian woman. Through her experience of living through the shame and embarrassment it brings to a strong, intelligent, independent woman, living in an otherwise male ruled country, Adichie is able to reflect her own life events on the characters of Purple Hibiscus.
Throughout Purple Hibiscus, Adichie’s use of cultural language and gender roles within a society are used to show the rise of feminism throughout characters such as Kambili and Beatrice. The reader observes the extensive use of culture-specific names and words within the story. These terms often times focus on the prominence of male superiority throughout the Nigerian culture. The formal way in which the community members as well as his wife and kids address Eugene show his dominance and is just one example of how males throughout this story are thought to deserve more respect than women. Another example of the display of Eugene’s superiority is the way in which his family acts around him. They are constantly walking on eggshells in fear that they will do something to displease their father or husband. One morning Kambili feels nauseous due to her cramps and her mother allows her to eat some cereal before they go to church. When Eugene discovers Kambili’s actions, he is appalled that she would dare to eat within an hour before church as it is forbidden under his strong religious beliefs. Not only does he wait to make them go to church until later, but he also doles out beatings to both his wife and children as they all allowed the act and therefore needed to pay for their sins. All of these actions are examples of the cultural norms set by men in Nigeria and demonstrate the sense of ascendancy Eugene has over the women in his life. Another way in which the cultural barriers are demonstrated and then broken down by women throughout the story are reflected upon in the quote,
The linguistic acumen displayed by the author here looks into how women are under-estimated, downgraded, second-classed, and rather looked down upon by their male counterparts and how women are rising to the occasion to take on a mans challenge on this. To this end, Adichie exemplifies this on a number of occasions throughout Purple Hibiscus. (Lawal)
This delves into the concept of how the female characters in this story overcome the stigma of males in Nigeria having the upper hand and instead are able to create their own success and thus their own independence. This contributes to the theme feminism throughout the story.
Until the end of the novel the use of feminism, while still prominent, is only periodically demonstrated throughout the story by the female characters. Most often, it is Aunty Ifeoma who presents a feminist figure in the story. In her ability to sway and intimidate Eugene with her independence Aunty Ifeoma demonstrates her feminism. There is not a need for a man in Ifeoma’s life in order for her to raise her children right and provide for them and herself. She has a job and a home, and albeit a small home and low paying job, she does everything she can for her family and inevitably makes it a warm and welcoming environment for her children. Aunty Ifeoma recognizes the lack of freedom Jaja and Kambili have under their father’s guidance so she convinces Eugene to take the kids for a while to let him “have a break”. Knowing full well their extremely conservative father is oppressing the children; she takes in Jaja and Kambili into her home to show them what life can be like when they are not constantly being controlled over. This is where Kambili begins to flourish and realize the wrongdoing of her father. Kambili sees what it is like to not have her thoughts and beliefs forced upon her and is able to open herself up to a much less conventional lifestyle. Her ability to let loose and see that the actions of her father were not right, demonstrate Kambili’s overcoming of patriarchy through her growing feminism. The time when the kids are away is also when Beatrice sees a way in which to escape from the tight grasp of Eugene. Tired of his constant abuse and lack of respect, Beatrice decides to poison Eugene, killing him off. This act of desperation validates just how oppressive Eugene was towards his family, especially Beatrice. This shows her strong willed sense of feminism and determination to rid her family’s life of Eugene’s wretched behavior.
The growth of Kambili and her ability to overcome the actions of her father help to prove her sense of strength. The same goes for Beatrice. A woman who once completely succumbed to the practices of the dominant male in her family was able to rise above and find the strength to overpower this source of masculinity and allow her feminist force prosper. The actions of the females characters in Purple Hibiscus were risky, but both Kambili and Beatrice dug deep inside themselves to find the power to rise above the patriarchy in their lives.
In the short Story, The Yellow Wall Paper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, there is a use of period-specific gender role tendencies to demonstrate the female protagonist’s journey to overcome male superiority through feminism. The main character, who remains nameless throughout the story, lives her life being constantly swayed by the wants and needs of her husband John. Because the story is set in the late 1900’s the narrator is assumed to be a stay at home wife who caters to all her husbands, physical, sexual, and emotional needs as well as to tend to the all the children and housework. This however, is not the lifestyle that the narrator wants. A few months post birth and now dealing with her post-partum depression, the narrator feels detached from her life in general, especially her husband. This is often reflected in her lack of interaction with John both socially and sexually. The narrator is specifically told by her husband to not do anything, as he is a doctor and should be able to correctly diagnose her. The narrator is ordered by her husband to avoid any kind of strenuous activity or over-stimulation, as it will only exacerbate her condition. (Baldwin) This in and of itself is an example of John’s brutal sense of superiority over his wife.
John treats her like a child, calling her diminutive names like “blessed little goose” and “little girl.” He makes all decisions for her and isolates her from the things she cares about. His actions are couched in concern for her, a position that she initially seems to believe herself. (Sustana)
He feels that he has the right to interpret her actions and therefore force her respond the way he sees fit. For the narrator, this means no interaction with the outside world, being forbidden to write in any journals, and lastly, being confined to a single dull room, covered in yellow wallpaper.
The narrator’s first act of feminism is displayed through her direct disobeying of her husband’s demand that she not write at all. As the story itself is the written journal of the narrator, it is clear she disobeyed John’s request, one because she finds writing as a therapy for her sadness, but also to purposely spite John. This demonstrates the narrator’s clear disapproval of her husband’s authority figure. Another significant example of the narrator’s feminism throughout the story is her distance from John on its own. He is very sexual towards her and despite his forbidding of her having other social interactions, expects her to please him. The narrator evades this behavior by seemingly ignoring john and not acting upon his advances towards her. This action of hers discredits john’s masculinity and gives the narrator a power over him. Towards the end of the story at which point the narrator’s confinement to the room with the yellow wallpaper has caused her to go insane, she demonstrates her feminism once again. John see’s that the narrator has developed a serious infatuation with the intimate wallpaper and demands that she take it down. In a direct manor, the narrator completely ignores his request and remains in her delusional fairytale with the wallpaper, refusing to take it down. It is this blatant lack of respect for her husband’s demands that makes the narrator such a revolutionary character for this time period.
Tyson introduces the idea of what she calls the patriarchal woman, “a woman who has internalized the norms and values of patriarchy” (Tyson 85). One such patriarchal norm is that “men [are] naturally superior to women: for example, more intelligent, more logical” (Tyson 86). In “The Yellow Wallpaper” there are several instances where it is evident that the narrator is one such patriarchal woman. The narrator has her own opinions about what is wrong with her and what she believes to be the best ways to improve her conditions. (Baldwin)
In her generation, most women would completely obey their husbands because they associated themselves as less important or less intelligent than men and therefore feared showing any sense of superiority. The protagonist of The yellow Wallpaper however breaks this mold and emerges as a radical feminist.
Through both of these stories, one of modern female struggle and one of old fashion male superiority, it is evident that the female protagonists rise above through feminism. In Purple Hibiscus, both Kambili and her Beatrice are able to overcome a lifetime of oppression by their traditional father and husband and emerge as strong, independent females. As for the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper, she demonstrates her ability to rise above the patriarchy of her husband in the 1800’s and prove herself a radical literary feminist. In each text the cultural and period-specific situations of the woman help aid the evidence of their feminism as they separate themselves from the stereo-type of having to be submissive under their male counterparts, thus both proving to be empowering and revolutionary texts.
Purple Hibiscus By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie As An Example Of A Literary Canon
Originating from the Latin word “rule”, a canon is a standard of judgement for ecclusiastical laws based on an accepted set of religious texts. Purple Hibiscus, a novel written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a perfect example of a literary canon considering that Adichie analyzes oppression and silence through the young character, Kambili, trying to convey her life through personal thoughts. Purple Hibiscus accentuates the role of culture, religion, and the specific time period while challenging accepted ideas.
A constant theme that was occurring in Adichie’s novel was the prevalence of oppression. Kambili, the daughter of Papa, voices her thoughts within her own head for the majority of the novel. A clear insight of Kambili’s feelings about Papa are shown when she says, “ My nightmares started then, nightmares in which I saw Ade Coker’s charred remains splattered on his dining table, on his daughter’s school uniform, on his baby’s cereal bowl, on his plate of eggs. In some of the nightmares, I was the daughter and the charred remains became Papa’s.” This thought from Kambili shows her subconscious thoughts about Papa. After Ade Coker’s death, Kambili starts to have dreams that turn into her own Papa dying, and she possibly does not mind those thoughts. Throughout the novel, Papa has put such a subconscious silence over Kambili that she starts to get these unimaginable images of Papas death, till she realizes it might not be the worst thing in the world. With the topic of a canon being related to culture, Kambili would never disrespect Papa by talking back to him or voicing her opinion about a situation that has already been made. Therefore, she can somewhat live her own life and voice her own thoughts throughout her dreams, subconsciously.
Along the topic of oppression, when Papa broke Mamas beloved figurines, Kambili said “I meant to say I am sorry that Papa broke your figurines, but the words that came out were, ‘I’m sorry your figurines broke, Mama.” Physical violence was also a factor in Kambili’s silence and when this scenario played out, Kambili was too afraid to disrespect Papa and what she wanted to say were not the words that she actually spoke out loud. This quote plays a significant role in a literary canon because not only does this show the significance of Kambili’s silence that lies within her subconsciously, but it also shows the culture aspect of her not disrespecting her father.
A literary canon, being one of the most important books of its time, is clearly portrayed as to why Purple Hibiscus is included. When Kambili talks about her brother Jaja, she says, “I looked at Jaja and wondered if the dimness in his eyes was shame. I suddenly wished, for him, that he had done the ima mmuo, the initiation into the spirit world. I knew very little about it; women were not supposed to know anything at all, since it was the first step toward the initiation to manhood. But Jaja once told me that he heard that boys were flogged and made to bathe in the presence of a taunting crowd. The only time Papa had talked about the ima mmuo was to say that the Christians who let their sons do it were confused, that they would end up in hellfire.” This quote shows two large factors of this novel, religion and authority. Jaja was telling Kambili at one point about this religious ritual that converted boys to their manhood, but he was not allowed to do it because Papa thought of it as a sin and he only wanted his children to end up in heaven. Jaja was shown these different ways of life through the humanistic beliefs of his aunt and the traditionalist rituals of his grandfather. Jaja compares himself to his cousin, Obiora, who is very articulate and mature for his age. Obiora had completed the ima mmuo in his father’s hometown. Jaja is never permitted to visit his grandfather for more than fifteen minutes a year because Jaja’s father does not view life the same as his own father and Jaja’s grandfather. Papas view on culture is significantly different than the rest of his family, which is why Jaja was not to visit Aunty Ifeoma at first. Though she is Papas sister, they are very much different religiously, and Papa would like to keep Kambili and Jaja away from that side of the family, authoritatively.
Kambili has a strong belief in God’s connection to nature and many other things. She tends to try to find him in the natural world, which was taught to her by Mama. Though she does not hold on to many religious rituals outside of Igbo song that Papa had taught, she connects the Catholic God and Chukwu. As God created the world and is prevalent, Igbo Chukwu built the earth and is associated everything in it. Kambili’s home is in Enugu, but she is unsure of her future now that she has been shown a freer way of life in Nsukka with the help of her aunt. She loves Papa but does not want to live in his shadow for the rest of her life. She makes this clear by stating, “Rain splashed across the floor of the veranda, even though the sun blazed and I had to narrow my eyes to look out the door of Aunty Ifeoma’s living room. Mama used to tell Jaja and me that God was undecided about what to send, rain or sun. We would sit in our rooms and look out at the raindrops glinting with sunlight, waiting for God to decide.” Though Kambili has love for her father, she can only envision a better and more freeing life for herself when she gets older. This shows how traditions and culture change over time by looking at the present time. Children are overdone with rules that they are expected to abide by, with the forceful nature of their parents, or parent. Adichie is showing a deeper meaning through her words when she describes these scenes in the novel. The inner thoughts of Kambili show how culture can change over time due to the fact that when things are pressured onto the youth, that makes them revolt and change to their own ways once they have grown.
Revolting against religion, Jaja shows his feelings by saying, ‘Of course God does. Look at what he did to his faithful servant job, even to his own Son. But have you ever wondered why? Why did he have to murder his own son so we would be saved? Why didn’t he just go ahead and save us?’ Jaja is questioning the Bible’s parables has shown his break with faith at this point and shows how low he is in his own life. The treatment of the son by God, his father, connects to the abuse Jaja had to go through because of Papa as well. Now that Papa is dead, Jaja claims his faith is as well. Depicting the clear image that religion was enforced by Papa unwillingly to the children and now that he is gone, nobody can control them to that level of severity anymore.
Following Papas death, the children’s lives change dramatically. Kambili states her thoughts as they come to her, naturally saying, “’We will take Jaja to Nsukka first, and then we’ll go to America to visit Aunty Ifeoma,’ I said. ‘We’ll plant new orange trees in Abba when we come back, and Jaja will plant purple hibiscus, too, and I’ll plant ixora so we can suck the juices of the flowers.’ I am laughing. I reach out and place my arm around Mama’s shoulder and she leans toward me and smiles. Above, clouds like dyed cotton wool hang low, so low I feel I can reach out and squeeze the moisture from them. The new rains will come down soon”. Kambili’s pure joy shows that she has fully converted into her own person. She is able to support herself and take care of Mama as well. Her admiration for nature comes into sight by her planting the new orange trees in her ancestral town, a symbol of new life and new beginnings. Jaja’s purple hibiscus, a symbol of freedom, will also finally come to bloom again. The ixora plants were a favorite of Father Amadi, the young priest Kambili fell in love with in Nsukka. The memories of when Kambili felt most whole will come back to life with a new planting of the ixora plant. The “new rains” symbolize the hope of a new beginning because the environment played a major symbolic role throughout this novel.
Analysis of Symbolism in Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The novel, Purple Hibiscus uses many types of symbolism to express Papa’s abusive behavior towards his wife and children. Within the novel, there are many symbols being used to help develop the novel, in the text; the four major ones being Love Sip Tea, Figurines, Lipstick, and Laughter. They all played a major role in the story. The love sip tea is a tea that burns Kambili and Jaja tongue badly, ruled by her father whose power conflicts with love and pain. The Figurines is an anomaly that leads Mama, Jaja and Kambili to freedom, which ends the whole family suffering. The lipstick represents empowerment and independence for Kambili as being a woman. The laughter is another symbol, a symbol that leads Kambili of being more active in the novel. In the novel, Purple Hibiscus, Adichie expresses different types of symbolism that affect the daily lives of Kambili’s family through Papa’s abusive behavior towards them. This means that experiencing a different home and their living ways it changes their perspective of Papa. Adichie is trying to persuade the reader that as people age, they become more independent and they stand up and be more liberal for themselves.
Adichie uses the Love Sip Tea to share Papa’s abusive actions towards Kambili and Jaja. Papa is in charge of the drink in the family. He named the tea, “a love sip” as it means, “giving love” or “receiving love”. Jaja and Kambili takes a sip as it means for Papas love to be consumed into them. The tea would burn both of their tongues badly. Kambili stated: “The tea was always too hot, always burned my tongue, and if lunch was something peppery, my raw tongue suffered” (Adichie 8). Here, Kambili shares how the drink was always hot & the aftermath of drinking the tea. More going into the phrase, “Always too hot, always burned my tongue” revealing on how abusive Papa is, he forces Jaja and Kambili to take a sip as it’s very hot.
Adichie also uses the Figurines as an example to show Papa’s anger that leads him to being so violent, and as he throws Mama’s figurines on Palm Sunday. The Figurines embody mama. She treated the figurines like her prize possession, as she thinks it would help her find a way to stop the abuse that Papa does to her and the kids. Kambili states: “Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines on the étagère”. Here, Papa is trying to release his anger out due to Jaja refusing to go to communion, as he said, it gave him bad breath. The start of the phrase, “things started to fall apart”, revealing that the figurines was the beginning of their journey to freedom, and the ending of the family’s sufferings from Papa’s violent ways towards the family.
Throughout the novel, Adichie mentions Amaka’s red Lipstick as it’s a representation of Symbolism. The lipstick is a symbol of femininity, a woman and sexual awareness. Throughout the novel, Kambili notices that Amaka and Aunty Ifeoma wears shiny bronze lipstick, while Kambili and her mother have cracked lips with peeling skin. “I took Amaka’s lipstick from the top of the dresser and ran it over my lips. It looked strange, not as glamorous as it did on Amaka; it did not even have the same bronze shimmer. I wiped it off. My lips looked pale, a dour brown. I ran the lipstick over my lips again and my hands shook”. Here shows how Kambili has always wanted to wear lipstick just like Aunty Ifeoma and Amaka, but due to Papa’s violence, she has always been afraid to do so. As she was out visiting Aunty Ifeoma’s house, she committed a sin. Even after she commits this sin, she never began to ask for forgiveness. Kambili didn’t really care about it or less to even think about what her consequences could be. Not only she tried the lipstick on once, but she tried it on again. “I looked down at my hand, at the smudge of hastily wiped lipstick that still clung to the sweaty back of my hands. I had not realized how much i had put on. It’s … a stain”. Here, also goes back to the first quote, Kambili is showing how clueless she is with the lipstick. She doesn’t know how to put it on the right way. Kambili has never worn lipstick because she was never able to wear it due to her father’s violent action. Kambili also comes to notice that the lipstick comes to represent her awareness of self as a woman.
The laughter symbolizes Kambili’s development and growth. The laughter comes throughout Aunty Ifeoma’s house during the week that Papa let her visit. She notices how Aunty Ifeoma’s household always have laughter and hers didn’t. “We always spoke with a purpose back home, especially at the table, but my cousins seemed to simply speak and speak and speak”. Here Kambili notices that during meals over Aunty Ifeoma’s house there’s always talking and laughing, in and out, throughout the house, even during lunch. The phrase, “we always spoke with a purpose back home” reveals that under Papa’s roof, there was barely any movements nor talking. It wasn’t normal for anyone to speak under Papa’s roof on a daily basis.
Within the novel, there were many symbols that help develop the ideas throughout the novel. Adichie mentioned a numerous amount of symbols, the important ones being Love Sip Tea, Figurines, Amaka’s Lipstick, and Laughter. As Kambili and her family experience these symbols, it developed the theme of the family’s growing defiance towards Papa. Facing these different types of Symbolism led the family to an ending of their sufferings. Each of these symbols creates a meaning. Love Sip Tea is an example of Papa’s abusive actions, The Figurines leading them freedom, The lipstick and the laughter leading Kambili to becoming more independent and being of herself more. Throughout the whole novel, these symbols help Kambili, Jaja and Mama prepare themselves for a new life, free from Papa’s violence that occurs often.
Deadly Patriarchy And The Role Of Familial Oppression And Silence In Purple Hibiscus By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In the acclaimed novel “Purple Hibiscus” composed by Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the narrative is dominated by the themes of systematic silence and abuse. The Achike family unit involved father Eugene, mother Beatrice, girl Kambili and child Jaja, is constantly brimming with calm pressure. The family is a well-off and advantaged Nigerian family, headed by Eugene, a fruitful specialist, and a faithful Catholic convert. Eugene is a caring and liberal father and spouse, however, he has a loathsome rough streak; he regularly flies into an attack of anger at the trace of religious tactlessness, lashing out with an uncontrollable rage and harsh punishments. Beatrice, Kambili and Jaja have all endured his wrath. His demeanor and attitude forces the family into an almost militant like obedience of him, Eugene’s fierce male-centric power has stolen the voices of the other relatives, causing a profound established silence instilled in every relative. His upheavals are fierce and frequently, yet the family does not transparently examine any of this strain. They disregard it, imagining it doesn’t occur, and rapidly continue their exercises. The silence is peculiar and thick, and Kambili feels ‘choked’ by it. In “Purple Hibiscus”, Eugene serves as a powerful manipulator, who assumes the role of colonizer within his own family.
The monstrous viciousness portrayed in Eugene is mirrored with a shockingly easygoing state of mind. Ogaga Okuyade clarifies this in his paper “Changing Borders and Creating Voices: Silence as Character in Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus;’When Kambili portrays the issues of domestic abuse, she does as such with a feeling of conventionality and haziness that one can barely depict Eugene’s home as a residential combat area. From her account, it appears as though life partner beating is an ordinary marvel’. After one episode of Beatrice being mercilessly beaten by Eugene, the kids simply watch as he slings her limp body behind him, trickling blood through the lobby and down the stairs, to which Jaja comments, ‘There’s blood on the floor. I’ll get the brush from the restroom’. The children at that point sit and clean their mom’s blood off the foyer floor, and Kambili envisions to herself that it is basically painted from ‘a spilling jug of red watercolor’). They have moved toward becoming desensitized to the viciousness and hostility and stay silent, complacent, anesthetized.
Another instance of this rash behavior comes in the form of Eugene destroying possessions that were very close to Beatrice’s heart. ‘… Papa flung his substantial missal over the room and broke the figurines’. Adichie all of a sudden tosses a situation at the reader, enabling the reader to choose what kind of character Papa is and how he responds to his condition. This additionally can give the reader a chance to comprehend what a dynamic character can appear to be at first, and what they can transform into throughout the story.
Jaja and Kambili’s tortured family life is not easy to deal with. They communicate about it through a homemade language called ‘the dialect of the eyes’ (Adichie 305) or through unobtrusive comments that need no elaboration. While talking about their mom’s pregnancy, Jaja says to Kambili, ‘We will protect him’, and Kambili contemplates internally, ‘I realized that Jaja implied from Papa, yet I didn’t say anything in regards to securing the infant’. Jaja does not need to expressly name the risk from which they should secure the unborn child; the significance of his words is implied.As a result of this familial abuse and control communicates that Kambili has turned out to be so deadened mentally that she battles to try and talk about the most unremarkable of things. These mysteries weigh most vigorously on Kambili herself, whose continuous powerlessness to talk displays how profoundly her mental capacity has been stunted. When going to visit her Aunty in Nsukka, Kambili frequently ends up stammering out stifled answers to any individual who dares ask her a question. At the point when Father Amadi mentions the fact that he has not seen her smile throughout the entire day, she turns away and does not answer. She considers, ‘I looked down at my corn. I wanted to state I was sad that I didn’t grin or giggle, yet my words would not come’. Close relative Ifeoma intervenes by simply brushing it off and saying ‘She is modest’. Obviously, Kambili is more than timid; she is petrified, she wants to be able to conversate however she remains apprehensive that her words will get her stuck in her throat, an unfortunate insecurity profoundly imparted in her by her dad. Her silence is an image of her frailty and her battle to discover both her inner and outer voice.
Despite this mental oppression, the children still love their father and their home, complete with its rigid rules and standards. When they depart from it in the story, they are eager to return to its broken familiarity. A case of this is when Kambili returns from Nsukka and enters the compound of her home in Enugu. ‘The walls secured the smell of the maturing cashews and mangoes and avocados. It disgusted me’. Kambili knew her house was what she missed and what she ached. Be that as it may, when she returns from Nsukka, her home abruptly makes her vibe suffocated and uninviting. The poisonous environment of her home is so uncomfortable that it becomes comfortable for Kambili and she misses it when she is away. The dysfunction and abuse brainwash Kambili and make her feel as though she needs them to survive.
Fortunately, the longer time Kambili spend away from her home and Papa, the more she sees it for the danger it is and begins to appreciate life outside of their compound and out from under Papa’s thumb. Nsukka begins as a remote place, however then turns into a home for Kambili. After Kambili and the reader both set up the way that Nsukka is a position of solace, Aunty Ifeoma leaves Nsukka and Nsukka just turn into a memory. ‘… the long grasses stick up like green bolts. The statue of the trimming lion never again glimmers’. With the loss of Aunty Ifeoma, Nsukka isn’t what it used to be. It represents yet another broken home and a misplaced family unit that Kambili must now heal herself from. It isn’t a moment home any longer, nor is it a place for comfort. It has turned into a memory, lost of all fervor and unwinding. Beside Nsukka, Kambili needs to encounter a difference in the area when her family visits Abba every year, the place where they grew up. ‘Our home still blew my mind, the four-story white glory of it’. Kambili depicts this house as though it is the home she would wish to live in for eternity. She has completely overlooked what her real home resembles. The home that she cherishes so much has now recently turn out to be some other place. What this shows is that places one once knew as home change over time, and even though something is commonplace, it has the ability to feel remote before long. The same can be said for individuals and characters. One individual may seem a certain way, but then be completely different after a period of change. This method of changing and adapting, and become new effects relatively every character in the story. Kambili, who has dependably become immune to harsh techniques for learning, begins to end up plainly a ‘typical’ individual in the story. For instance, Kambili acknowledges how much her close relative and cousin’s laugh and smile. Kambili is never used to any of this. She first begins to change when she says, ‘That night, I envisioned that I was giggling’.
Towards the finish of the novel, Kambili is accustomed to laughing and talking and singing. ‘I sang as I showered’. Not exclusively does this demonstrate Kambili can finally freely laugh and sing, it additionally demonstrates that she is doing new things that she could never before imagine. Next, Jaja begins as a defender towards Kambili and exceptionally faithful to Papa. Adichie, in any case, makes it clear that Jaja will change. He begins hanging out with his cousins more and the relationships amongst Kambili and Jaja starts to debilitate. It is obviously evident Jaja has turned into another individual when he assumes the fault for his dad’s demise, somebody who he had been isolating far from. ‘He revealed to them he had utilized rodent poison, that he place it in Papa’s tea’ (Adichie 291).Finally, the character who most seemed least likely to change is Amaka. Amaka is depicted as Kambili’s bombastic cousin who doesn’t particularly like her. ”Are you certain they’re not strange, mother? Kambili just carried on like an atulu when my friends came”. After Kambili comes out of her shell, Amaka approaches her with deference, which shocks Kambili. ‘She pushed ahead to incline toward the railings, her shoulders brushing mine. The past is the past.’ What this demonstrates is the slip-ups Amaka made, how she understands that Kambili was not what she initially thought to be. Kambili understands that Amaka was just acting pretentious on the grounds that she misjudged Kambili. At last, both understand their mistakes and every one of the characters understands their previous lifestyles were brimming with gaps, and their new lives have filled in the holes. Adichie unites every one of the characters by making them dynamic and allowing them to change throughout the novel.
“Purple Hibiscus” is a novel ripe with the lesson that “love is blind”. Within the story, the reader is taken on a roller coaster ride with the Achike family as they fight for existence underneath the oppressive abuse of the patriarch, Eugene. In this piece, he represents the same kind of violent dominance imposed upon the continent of Africa by colonizers. Within his household, he represents the White English man, who comes through and ravishes the beautiful natives and native villages for his own personal ego and gain. The main character, Kamibili, demonstrates the effects of a country that has been the victim of colonization. She struggles to find her own voice and establish an identity while being under his thumb and rules. She can barely speak up for herself and finds that every ounce of her life is controlled by him and his persona. She, like a struggling country, needs help standing on her own two feet, but slowly throughout the piece, the reader watches as she learns how to do so. Through the counteractive remedy of family love and appreciation that she finds at her Aunty’s house, she is able to blossom like a butterfly and finally find her own place in the world. Consequently, as this is happening, her father dies in the story. It is as if the author juxtaposed these events to represent that once the colonized began to find their power and worth again, they represent an unstoppable force to the colonizer. As Kambili rises, her father passes away and so does his tight grip on her life.
Exploring Hidden Feelings And Character Growth Through Symbolism In Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus
When raised in a country hindered by the hardships of domestic violence, voicing one’s true thoughts can often carry savage consequences, Purple Hibiscus is no exception. When the voice of the Achike family is confined in an oppressive society and home under Eugene, an authoritarian male figure, their feelings and character growth are expressed in objects and the nature around them. In this novel by Chimamanda Adichie, the use of figurines and hibiscuses act as ambivalent symbols whose meanings give insights into understanding hidden feelings and unforeseeable change in character beyond the superficial understanding of the novel.
The events that transpire during the story give light to the fact that Mama’s (Beatrice) beloved, delicate figurines represent herself in a fragile fight against her husband, Eugene. Beatrice’s emotional connection with the figurines is made obvious through her tears shed when Eugene shatters the sculptures with the commencement of the book. Right away, Kambili recognizes that ‘things started to fall apart at home when her brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines on the étagère…immediately I watched Mama as her eyes filled up with water as the shattered pieces of the figurines hit the floor’. The glass of the figurine is delicate, easily breakable. It is a sign of fragility in comparison to something stronger like the heavy missal which personifies Eugene himself. The use of symbolism is used to establish a link between the figurines and Mama’s gentle attempts to cope with her husband’s violence. Interestingly, each time she is abused by Eugene, she spends time with the figurines as if she finds comfort in spending time with something that is equally as fragile and as accurate a representation as possible. In addition, Beatrice’s inordinate attachment to the figurines is noticed when she dwells upon the shattered pieces of the figurines for a concerning amount of time. As Beatrice sits silently in the corner with the broken figurine in her hand, Kambili, ‘meant to say, ‘I’m sorry your figurines broke, Mama’, but instead, the words that came out were, ‘I’m sorry Papa broke your figurines’. She nodded quickly, then shook her head to show that the figurines did not matter. They did, though. Years ago, before I understood, I used to wonder why she polished them each time… I would go down to see her standing by the étagère with a kitchen towel soaked in soapy water. She spent at least a quarter of an hour on each ballet-dancing figurine’. The unusual care Beatrice has for the figurines symbolize her heart and the care she has for herself. When Eugene breaks the figurines, he, in turn, breaks Beatrice’s heart from his violent and negligent actions in their constant fight. Moreover, Beatrice’s change in character is first expressed through the wreckage of her figurines when she refuses to replace the broken sculptures, symbolizing that change is forthcoming. Following her refusal, Kambili begins to understand that ‘maybe mama had realized that she would not need the figurines anymore; that when Papa threw the missal at Jaja, it was not just the figurines that came tumbling down, it was everything. Kambili was only now realizing it, things were about to change’. The damage the missal does to the figurines is irreversible and because they represent Beatrice, the destruction shows the extent to which Mama is hurt by the violent actions of Eugene. When she refuses to replace the sculptures, she also refuses to stick to her usual calm personality. The representation of the figurines prove that drastic actions lead to drastic changes as Beatrice embodies a new, vengeful persona as she later plans the murder of Eugene, showing that she is evolving into a new character with the shattering of the figurines. In summary, the symbolic use of figurines represents Beatrice’s hidden feelings and change in character as she deals with the hardships of her savage husband.
The use of hibiscuses symbolizes the different phases of Jaja’s life as he evolves from a life of violence and oppression into an independent figure on his fight for freedom. The vibrant colors of the hibiscuses found in Jaja’s house represent his oppressive life under the reign of Eugene. Even after planting tranquil purple hibiscuses in their garden, Jaja recognizes that while “the purple plants had started to push out, most of the flowers were still on the red ones. They seemed to bloom so fast, these red hibiscuses”. In Jaja’s house, it unusual to grow purple hibiscuses, instead, red ones cover most of the garden. The vibrant color of red symbolizes the pain and anger that overwhelm Jaja’s life and the rapid blooming of the red hibiscuses represent the dominance of Eugene. Furthermore, Jaja’s newfound courage to act in defiance of his father can initially be traced back to his first interaction with the purple hibiscus, allowing him to strive towards autonomy. Following Jaja’s refusal to go to communion, Kambili realizes that, “Nsukka started it all…Jaja’s defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma’s experimental purple hibiscus: rare, fragrant with the undertones of freedom that were about to blossom”. Jaja’s audacity shows his growing maturity as his rebelliousness shows his courage. His change in character is synonymous with the purple hibiscus as both are rare and emblematic of freedom. The purple hibiscus that is about to blossom symbolizes Jaja’s emerging freedom as he begins to question the authority of Eugene and act out in defiant ways. Moreover, the correlation between Jaja’s change in character and the blossoming of the purple hibiscuses is intensified as Jaja continues to disobey Eugene’s commands, becoming a maverick in the novel. As Jaja moves from simply refusing to go to communion to uncharacteristically slamming doors at Eugene and courageously refusing to attend his dinner invite, Kambili realizes that, “the purple hibiscuses are beginning to bloom and change color…I could see the sleepy, oval-shape buds in the front yard as they swayed in the evening breeze unencumbered by any constraints…just as we were too”. Jaja’s attempts at autonomy grow in the same rhythm as the purple hibiscus in their garden. The hibiscuses changing color to purple is a reflection of the changes in Jaja as he evolves into an audacious character who challenges the supremacy of Eugene. As the purple hibiscuses sway freely in their unrestricted environment, they symbolize Jaja, who is now fully blossomed, as an individualistic character unburdened by the tyranny of Eugene.
In Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, Purple Hibiscus, the use of symbolism through the representation of figurines and hibiscuses deepens the understanding of the family’s feelings and unforeseeable character development which would otherwise remain hidden in the shadows of Eugene’s reign. While remaining quiet on the outside, the figurines and the hibiscuses symbolize the autonomous evolution of the Achike family and their inexplicable feelings when faced with oppression. Though the novel is a fictional tale, its metaphorical use of Eugene as a despotic figure embodies a tyrannical government in their actions to oppress the lives of numerous impotent citizens, serving as an accurate representation of dictatorial nations. Adichie’s clever use of symbolism illuminates the hidden feelings and autonomous character development as the Achike family stands emancipated of Eugene’s oppression.