Life of Kambili in Purple Hibiscus

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

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.

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