This first book of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is set twenty to thirty years after the Nigerian Civil War, during the rule of General Ibrahim Babangida. His regime was characterized by political and economic instability, as well as hardship. The multifaceted novel narrates the life of a teenager who finds her voice after years of indoctrination, limitation, abuse, and silence. Although the book lacks a glossary, the expressions in Igbo are put in a clear context.
Story with a Strong Message
At the beginning of the book, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie introduces us to the anger of Eugene Achike (Papa). He is destructive and violent. When he destroys Mama’s figurines, he is not remorseful. He carries on as if nothing has happened. Mama’s resignation from Papa’s tyranny is harmful to not just her but the children. She loses pregnancies and her children struggle with expressing themselves. Kambili even starts to accept abuse as a form of affection. Jaja on the other hand develops feelings of inadequate protection for his family. The significance of one’s environment is highlighted as Jaja and Kambili have no social skills.
Chimamanda Adichie uses the book to promote the opinion that violence begets silence. Violence also begets rebellion and crime. The Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970 broke out at the peak of agitation between the Igbo people in the South-East and the federal Nigerian government in the north. The political perception of this novel is quite captivating for lovers of post-colonial literature. The characterization and structure are quite effective in communicating the message to readers.
The Use of Contrast
The story of ‘Purple Hibiscus’ depicts a contrast in religious beliefs, cultural beliefs, race, gender roles, and family. The two main settings used are Kambili’s hometown in Enugu and a small town in Nsukka. The contrasts between the two settings are obvious. The first difference to note is how much wealth the Achike family possesses. Papa who is a successful businessman can comfortably provide for his family. He is however unable to teach his children responsibility. Kambili and Jaja are not trained to be independent as they cannot cook their meals or do house chores. It is as though their parents did not expect them to grow up and start a life of their own.
Aunty Ifeoma on the other hand is not as financially buoyant. She has more trouble providing for the needs of her family. She teaches her children independence and how to manage resources. Wealth is not happiness, though, as Amaka, Obiora, and Chima are happier kids.
In Enugu, Mama, Kambi, and Jaja endure maltreatment from Papa. They are very quiet and do not possess the freedom to make decisions or even properly communicate. In Nsukka, however, Kambili discovers the true nature of freedom. Her cousins are permitted to make jokes, listen to songs, watch television and express their thoughts on matters. They are also allowed to relate with other people. This liberty helps them develop healthy self-esteem and confidence. The more time Jaja and Kambili spend in Nsukka, the more their individuality grows.
Contrast is also portrayed in the way Papa and Aunty Ifeoma hold their Catholic beliefs. Aunty Ifeoma is liberal-minded and kind. Papa on the other hand is rigid and violent.
Yearning for Unattainable Things
Kambili who is the major character in this book depicts longing for things she cannot get. In school, she is known as a snub because she does not relate with other students. This is actually because she is frightened of pissing her father off. When she and Jaja visit Nsukka, she is astounded at her cousins’ independence and boldness. They do not just have relationships with other people, they conveniently argue their opinions.
When Jaja quickly adjusts and can communicate better with Aunty Ifeoma and her children, Kambili is surprised. It takes a long while for her to settle into the liberalism that Aunty Ifeoma continues to offer. She struggles to explain her thoughts without stuttering and longs for the ability to express herself without coughing. She also finds the way Amaka relates with Papa-Nnukwu beautiful and aches to have a bond like that. When she falls in love with Father Amadi, she craves to be closer to him, but his position in the Church Makes it impossible.
Mama is another character who yearns. In the book, she desires to have more children. She is grateful that although Papa’s relatives have advised him to get another woman to have children for him, he refuses. Although Mama gets pregnant, her hope of having more children is dashed when she has a miscarriage. The novel presents the resilience of citizens who are faced with military coups and economic and political instability. The fight to attain autonomy and the struggle against poverty are aspects of the society that are captured in ‘Purple Hibiscus‘.
Role of Power in the Society
Using this work of literature, Chimamanda addresses the powerful tool that Patriarchy is. Topics ranging from feminism, violence, politics, colonialism, and religious extremism are also explored in the novel’s plot. Nigeria is a country where men are known as the head of the family. This provides them with the right to control the affairs of their household.
The devastating effects of total patriarchal dominance are exposed using the character of Eugene Achike. Mama bears her abuse in silence because she is afraid of the outcome of speaking out. Kambili and Jaja develop insecurities and psychological trauma because of Papa’s molestation.
The power that the military government possesses over Nigerians is also explored in the novel. When their corrupt practices are challenged, they arrest critics or eventually kill them. Power is proved to be intoxicating as Aunty Ifeoma who also stands against the administrator at the University, loses her job. This book set in the Igbo territory of the eastern part of Nigeria exposes the reader to the cultural experiences of a certain region of the society. The author being Igbo creates a town-pastoral balance of experiences.
Purple Hibiscus Review
Lasting Effect on Reader
Purple Hibiscus Review: A Captivating Plot
This post-colonial fictional novel addresses the major problems encountered in the present-day Nigerian society. The battle against bad governance, corruption, oppression, and religious extremism is emphasized in the book.
- It is educating for readers interested in Nigerian history.
- It has relatable characters, setting, and themes.
- It has a captivating plot.
- It leaves the reader yearning for more information.
- Readers are taken through a rollercoaster of emotions.
- Story might not be so fascinating for strong believers of patriarchy.