About the Book

Book Protagonist: Kambili Achike
Publication Date: 2003
Genre: Coming of Age, Literary Fiction

Historical Context

Purple Hibiscus

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been identified as one of Nigeria's most important new generation writers. 'Purple Hibiscus' which was written and published sometime in the 21st century is a book about emancipation. It is set in post-colonial Nigeria.

‘Purple Hibiscus’ has its historical context set in post-colonial African society. Most post-colonial literature talks about issues like the loss of culture and identity in African societies, colonialism, bad government, corruption, and violence. The characters of their work often struggle to find the balance between the new and old ways. They struggle to form an identity of their own. Purple Hibiscusis an example of such a novel. It analyzes the negative effects of colonial forces, extremism, and patriarchal sovereignty.

Purple Hibiscus Historical Context


‘Purple Hibiscus’ was written in Connecticut. It was Chimamanda Adichie’s link to her homeland in Nigeria. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who lived in the affluent neighborhoods of Lagos in Nigeria, and those of Washington DC was able to glide between the culture of the two places. The setting of ‘Purple Hibiscus’ is Nigeria. From 1914 to 1960, it was a British colony. Chimamanda Adichie uses various characters in the book to describe the reactions of Africans to colonialism.

‘Purple Hibiscus’ was first published in 2003. The original edition of the book was written in English. Presently, it has been translated into over thirty languages, leading to the study of the book in different parts of the world. It tells the story of a young girl who is raised by an extremely religious father and a submissive mother. Asides from being a religious fanatic, her father is violent and subjects his immediate family to physical abuse. The book which is written through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old narrates the turmoil of adolescence. It aims at showing the elements of patriarchal control and extremism. It also relays the life of Nigerians under the military regime using both the activities of the government in the plot and the relations of Eugene Achike with his family.

‘Purple Hibiscus’ is taken as a compilation of experiences that violate the rights of a child. Notably, in 2003 when it was published in the United Kingdom, the Child Rights Act was passed in Nigeria. This Act has since been adopted by over twenty states in Nigeria.

Chimamanda Adichie’s Context

As the author of other highly-commended books like ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and ‘Americanah’, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is celebrated in the literary world. She has been said to examine the complexities of faith, family, and culture.

‘Purple Hibiscus’ was not Chimamanda Adichie’s first written novel. During her lecture at the University of Nairobi, she joked about previously writing bad novels. After writing ‘Purple Hibiscus’, she sent out the script, seeking an agent. She received so much rejection because of the novel setting that she was tempted to consider resetting the story in America. Adichie had initially written the book for pleasure, so she was not entirely disappointed with the non-acceptance she was getting. The book was eventually published on the 30th of October 2003 by Algonquin Books.

Cultural Context

Nigeria is a country with as many as 525 native languages, 250 ethnic groups, and three major religions. In this book, Chimamanda Adichie explored the Igbo culture using its components as symbolic elements that portray the Nigerian Igbo culture and traditions.

Parts of ‘Purple Hibiscus’ tackled the variance in cultural beliefs. Papa-Nnukwu is used to represent the indigenous culture of Igboland. The religious strife between Aunty Ifeoma, Papa, and Papa-Nnukwu is still present in today’s Nigerian society. ‘Purple Hibiscus’ is termed a post-colonial novel because its setting was in Nigeria, a country that was ruled by European countries such as Spain and Britain. Colonialism led to different cultures existing in the same location. After the end of it, the agitation between the various ethnic groups led to a coup in January 1966. The effects of the European invasion, the fight against the invasion, and the mixing of cultures after the invasion are features that were written about in this book.


Chimamanda Adichie focused on a couple of communicative themes that remain relevant in today’s society. Themes like violence, patriarchal authority, colonialism, and religion are still pertinent in African societies. The themes used in ‘Purple Hibiscus are also interwoven and speak to each other as the novel climaxes: violence begets rebellion. The characters of Jaja and Mama are used to portray this theme. While Jaja learned to defile Papa’s orders, Mama went through a subtler route that ended his life.

The story of ‘Purple Hibiscus’ confronted the likelihood of men abusing women and their refusal to take responsibility. It also revealed the African expectation of a perfect woman; one who is submissive, one who accepts and endures molestation. Research proved that up to two-thirds of women in certain communities in Nigeria’s Lagos State are physically, sexually, or psychologically abused. Also, a 2001 survey by Project Alert On Violence Against Women disclosed grim statistics on domestic violence in Nigeria, Adichie intended to explain the pain and trauma that domestic violence causes.

Finally, the result of colonialism in Nigeria both at the individual and social level was shown in this book. ‘Purple Hibiscus‘ described the intersection of race, class, and gender in a theological context. It is believed to be one of the most important Nigerian books because it addressed significant family and religious challenges that teenagers in Nigeria experience.


Among many other privileges and prizes, Chimamanda Adichie who is called the leading African writer of her generation was awarded a Hodder fellowship at Princeton University (2005-2006). In 2008, she also won a coveted MacArthur Genius Award.
Purple Hibiscus won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, It also won the Best Books for Young Adults Prize in 2004.


What inspired ‘Purple Hibiscus’?

The book was inspired by a college in Connecticut. It was the middle of winter, she was homesick, and Chimamanda Adichie just wanted to remember home. For her, the book is about nostalgia.

What Year is the Setting of ‘Purple Hibiscus’?

The book was set in post-colonial Nigeria after the civil war in the late 1960s.

What is the Main Problem in ‘Purple Hibiscus’?

The main problem in ‘Purple Hibiscus’ is oppression.

Fave Ehimwenma
About Fave Ehimwenma
Fave Ehimwenma is a proficient writer, researcher, and content creator whose love for art and books drives her passion for literature reviews.
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