An Analysis of Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie Essay Sample
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An Analysis of Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie Essay Sample
Purple Hibiscus is a novel about growth including physical abuse; and, a story of maturation written by Chimamanda Adichie . It encompasses both stand positions- the colonial and the post-colonial, with which she explores the existential wrangling of the African identity. However, it chronicles the transition from self-ignorance to self-discovery and self-awareness emphasizing the psychological independence kambili achieves who the author introduces as the narrator, who had a family blessed with material wealth but cursed by violence. We watch Eugene’s family’s fearful acquiescence to Eugene dictates and his children’s watchful veneration of him as they constantly seek his approval and love. The purple hibiscus becomes a metaphor for freedom and independence. While a flower may seem delicate in constitution, purple is historically associated with royalty, divine The purple flower then comes to signify Kambili’s urge to bloom, her natural instinct to look for the light as it also symbolizes the fusion between the colors of the Nigerian flag which reinforces the struggle for both a physical and a cultural independence between Nigeria and her colonial master, the British.
The book begins in media res, realizable through flash back. The novel traces the physical and psychological development of the protagonist, Kambili and her brother Jaja. A development which designates their struggle to define themselves, beyond the stiffened, and funless world their Calvinistic father has fashioned for them. Their fussy mercantile father builds a world stuffed with materialistic wholeness, a world that lacks ventilation, which guarantees a steady relationship with the outside when the inside becomes too suffocating. Kambili seems a naïve but functional voice in the revelation of realities. Yes, Adichie achieves a striking success in creating a sensitive character in Kambili; she neatly tucks away the sensationalism that the other ‘new’ writers would have flooded their works with; and she depersonalizes herself from the work thus lifting her work from the slump of personal social commentary as most of our novels are. Heather (2003) captures her innocence thus:
Ironic- ballet dancer figurines – even as their house looked like a church and very religious As the figurines go down, the foundation of his family begins to crumble and everything about him begins to have a downward trajectory. The shards of the figurines represent the gradual disintegration of his authority in his home and the gradual fragmentation of the organic and psychological wholeness of his family. Vivid descriptions/ visual images – wore the same clothes every second day, “god is love” Spiritual retreat Black church scarf
Ironic- ballet dancer figurines – even as their house looked like a church and very religious
Mutual silence of others due to over – supremacy
Male dominance – low and calming, Go and change
Love sip, burned papa’s love into me
Love thrives where freedom blossoms. Kambili and Jaja never experienced ‘real’ love beyond the sipping of their father’s hot tea as Kambili cries out that, “the tea was always hot, always burned my tongue, and if lunch was something peppery, raw tongue suffered” Silence of Kambili – I felt suffocated,even the glass dining table was moving toward me His over-zealous attitude and clipped religious tones reduce members of his family to the size of midgets. He works hard to ensure his family lacks nothing. His houses are capacious yet stifling, and the bedrooms, are very roomy yet stuffy. Kambili’s description of the contrast between their commodious apartment and its airlessness is telling. “Their luxurious home reflects the feeling of entrapment where Kambili “feels suffocated” despite the spacious open rooms. Jaja did not move – how he wasn’t able to stand up against his father Stared at the figurine pieces on the floor – her heart was shattered Just like Kambili, Jaja and their mother, the Nigerian people continue to be subjected to silent spaces
Misjudge of character
Intention of being opposite of who he is – flung it across the room, toward Jaja Eugene, Kambili’s father is a religious maverick and his bigotry belief is anchored on the theological standards of Catholicism. He leads a life of Rosary and Crossing and carries himself with a donnish air of Catholic superiority. Page 60-62
Lack of humanity
Never visited him, but he sent slim wads if naira through Kevin Slimmer wads than he gave Kevin as a Christmas bonus He complained that he did not know his grandchildren and that we did not know him Papa himself never greeted papa Nnukwu Stayed no longer than 15 minutes
Every man was old enough to be called grandfather —- sympathy is felt
The sin & religion
Never visited him
Papa would be saved from hell
Don’t touch any food, don’t drink …
Offered him a house, buy a car, hire him a driver if he converted Threw the chi in the thatch shrine in his yard Don’t like to sent you to the home of the heathen , but god will protect you
Generosity – Is mocked
Members of umunna sided with papa, they always did
Nno nu – significance
Complain how ever ready he was to help
Materialistic needs fulfilled – how they could no buy new clothes for their clothes for Christmas Christmas – westernization – not a festive originated from there.
Contrasting descriptions between her house and her grandfathers Show to distinct the settings
She felt suffocated in her house which was large … while she was happy in the compact, small house – social backgrounds created.. nature. – raw Signs of godlessness – two different worlds…. Everything at home is related to religion … it’s scary while here, its good. Distinct signs that they had to be
Descriptions – show how they haven’t been there and it’s their first sight of where he lives Small compact, dice square) – lack of facilities and basic nessesities Only two of them grew up – how papa left them for the sake of religion Drew in kinder garden – so much of details – she remembers her childhood memories Like a verandah – rusty metal bars Closet size building of unpainted cement blocks
Examined him that day for signs of differences, of godlessness
Excerpt: Pg. 62 to 63, “As Kevin drove…They had to be” 1) 3 prominent literary devices used in the excerpt: Visual Imagery and Diction: ‘…the gleaming white walls and pillars of our house, the perfect silver-coloured water arch the fountain made.’ The diction used here to create this image is very lilting and beautiful. It lends an ethereal quality to the house Kambili is describing. The use of such eloquence is in sharp contrast with her usual lack of expression. This can be interpreted as how her mind is capable of expressing emotions but these emotions never seem to come up to the surface due to her very autocratic upbringing characterized by smothering of any personal expression and freedom . This internal eloquence could be symbolic of how the people in Nigeria are bursting with emotions and thoughts, but the political and religious conflict does not allow for freedom of expression in the context of how the protagonist’s family is a microcosm for Nigeria then. Writing style is very descriptive which further reiterates the concept of how her thoughts are much more expressive than her actions. This is seen when she describes papa-Nnukwu’s house and Kevin’s scar in great detail.
It brings out the contrast between the luxury Kambili is used to and the frugality of papa-Nnukwu’s dwelling. At certain points in time, he writing style becomes very detached. This is seen when the statement “the compound was barely a quarter of the size of our backyard in Enugu” is made. This statement does not contain any undertones of pride or happiness at having a more luxurious house. It merely creates a comparison between the two places. It is interesting to notice that papa-Nnukwu seems content in poverty, whereas Kambili’s luxury cannot seem to make her happy. The first person narrative voice is used which lends a very personal tone to the excerpt given. Since the narrative is mostly her thoughts, it gives an insight into her mind as she doesn’t say everything she feels. these are extremely insightful and pertinent 2) The conflict in the excerpt and how it is represented:
In the given excerpt, religious conflict has been represented through the contrast between papa- Nnukwu’s pagan religion and Kambili and Jaja’s Christianity. The religious conflict is observed when papa-Nnukwu wasn’t allowed in Eugene’s house because he was a “heathen”. This demonstrates that religion has driven a wedge between paternal relationships. This shows the power religion has in governing relationships. It also brings out the economic conflict between cultures, and the power politics that engage both, Christian and Igbo cultures, where- as Christians are richer (Papa) and Igbo’s/ Pagans are relatively poorer (Papa Nnukwu), the political scenario favours the rich and grand. This observation can also be drawn as a paralleled to the military dictatorship that eclipsed the lives of ordinary men in Nigeria. The role of religion has been subverted from something which mends and heals to something that has drawn a wedge between a father and his son. It has been reduced to dogmatism and rituals, and something that has been losing its depth.
Religion has led to economic, political and familial conflicts and disparities at large, as had been observed in this excerpt. Another instance where this conflict is seen when it is mentioned that papa-Nnukwu’s bathroom door is made of a ‘mat of entwined of palm fronds’. Palm fronds are the symbol of victory in Christianity and using it for a bathroom door is subverting it’s symbolism from being victorious to being menial and stripping it of all its importance and significance. 3) 1 Character sketch dependent on the excerpt: Kambili is described as the shy, dynamic, evolving protagonist. In this excerpt, her tarnished innocence is brought out, where at a young, impressionable age she “used to draw” that “looked just like” Papa-Nnukwu’s house, showing how, her roots defined her at a young age, much before her father imposed his ideals on her, and turned her into a passive, unopinionated 15 year old. Art was used as a medium to express her thoughts, but after observing and being a part of Papa’s lifestyle, her character has been moulded to fit his perfectly, where all her expression has been curbed.
Her character was extremely shielded from the on-goings of the common people, “I had walked in looking for the bath-room and Papa Nnukwu had laughs and pointed at the outhouse,” this showed how just because she came from a rich family, she wasn’t aware of the lifestyle that ordinary people led. Her character was extremely protected. Additionally, her blind faith in her father has been expressed when she looked for “Godlessness” in her grandfather as she had been informed about the significant difference that her grandfather possessed; she believed so blindly and confidently what her father instilled in her that she took as the ultimate truth, “I didn’t see any, but I was sure they were there somewhere. They had to be.” Lastly, her repressed and subdued personality has been highlighted through the expression of all that she observed around her in terms of visual images: “water arch fountain”, “Kevin’s scar,”etc. Also when Kevin addressed the siblings, it was Jaja that responded for the both of them “we know”, again providing support for the claim that Kambili’s character was created around the theme of silence.
Descriptions – old age
Food slide down his throat
Sagging Adam’s apple’s
Send her to go and buy soft drinks
No papa, thank you
Offer food to my ancestors
Care & over protection & obsession
I wanted to stay –
What, so soon..? – what she expected to here.. surprised that he dint want them to wait To see if the Fufu clung to papa – Nuuku’s throat as he swallowed Run and get him water I waved back and kept my eyes on him
Gray rooster walk into the shrine at the corner of the yard
Never go near
Dried palm fronds
Grotto behind At. Agnes
Missionaries had liked him
Papa would not stop by
No care – sisters got the voice
Ironic – will your hands wither away if you pick up the phone on day and call your sister, gbo? – Significance of gbo How long ago was that? It’s a little too sweet – could confront her brother as apposed to jaja and kambili
A fitting point of departure for this demonstration may be a short consideration of the heroine’s struggle to articulate her feelings and opinions to those around her. During most of the novel, there is a marked discrepancy between the words Kambili addresses to her family—or rather, those she does not—and the feelings she expresses in narrative passages. Indeed, the heroine repeatedly finds herself in situations where she remains silent or utters words she did not intend to, often out of fear of displeasing her interlocutors or because she is unable to articulate her response. Thus, Kambili is initially misjudged by her cousin Amaka, who interprets her laconic comment as a sign of world-weariness: Kambili never watches television because her father strictly organizes his children’s time, but she never voices aloud the explanations she so desperately wants to add. However, it is significant that, despite her shyness, “there’s a lot going on in [her] head” (220), as Father Amadi astutely observes. Foil characters – Amaka and kambili
Helps her father
Fights her own battle
Cassette play – shows how poor she is and that she dint possess as many goods as kambili did
Aren’t exposed to liberty, freedom – eat, sleep, study, religion repeat – inappropriate upbringing of children – shows that Nigeria hasn’t evolved from the dictorial/ colonical power Military dictorial leadership arrested will and power Drums – authentic and traditional
Music – polyphonic – represents the culture and culture develops identity Despite being Christian, Amaka hasn’t lost her Nigerian roots and is “ culturally conscious “ – talks about the way her mother brought her up
The Nigerian music has something real to say unlike the western music (which is alien to you). It is simply unreal and the difference between the two kinds is huge since it has a large gap
The idea of America is sold to people more specifically kids / children
Kambili cant speak her native lang properly however, amaka can who is exposed to cultures not only widen her country but foreign too .
‘I am sure this is nothing close to the sound system………..Four were made of plain wood, the kind of chairs in my classroom, and the other two were black and padded.’
Three prominent literary devices:
Igalitarism- spell error and this is NOT a literary device: There is a sense of complete individual freedom in the excerpt. Amaka as an individual is allowed complete liberty on how to live and what to do. She can listen to any music she wishes to listen to, she can paint, she can speak the way she wants to shows how there are no obsolete rules in this household. Aunt doesn’t restrict her from doing what Amaka please to do and instead helps her flourish. Also, when Amaka continues to prod and mock Kambili, the aunt doesn’t completely instruct her and scold her. She warns her and tells Amaka to leave the cousin alone, but she doesn’t show extremity in the manner in which she treats her children. She respects their choices, their individuality and moreover she has a voice which is in strong juxtaposition to Kambili’s. Since language is used as a medium to give/ control one’s freedom, here when Amaka speaks the way she wants to and expresses her opinions shows how there isn’t a power struggle in the house but “language” in more of a medium to express rather than assert.
Liberal outlook on life- the question was LIT DEVICES not themes Aunt Ifeoma has a liberal outlook on life. She allows her children complete freedom and doesn’t feel the need to dominate them at each part in their life. Her children too, when they are permitted to express themselves in the various manners show how easy going the Aunt is. Also there is a stark juxtaposition from the household of Kambili as there is no pressure to be perfect. The furniture is mismatched, so are the plates and glasses. The household of the aunt is a reflection of their beliefs and their lifestyle. The kids can be themselves in the household and so can the mother. There is a freedom of choice and there are no preconscious illusions of how they want to portray their family to the outsiders. Aunt Ifeoma doesn’t want to create an illusion of perfection. Also the fact that she includes Jaja and Kambili in their family immediately shows how open minded they are and how including they are unlike Papa.
Amaka is very proud of her cultural heritage. The music she listens to and her art is reflective of it. Even though there is western influence on their family, she is proud of her african Igbo culture. She listens to music which is culture orientated. By listening to indie music, Amaka listens to music with a purpose, there is no restriction on the kids to stay away from reality. The children are aware of the happenings in the real world. Therefore there is also a sense of equality amongst the elders and the children. Since she paints a black skinned mother Mary also shows how she is proud of her heritage and doesn’t strive to mimic every detail of the western culture. She also is aware of the happenings of the outside world which show how interested she is about the African heritage. When she speaks about the music to Kambili and generalises her as one of the teenagers listening to pop music, she claims superiority through her artistic preferences and her culture. She mocks Kambili throughout the excerpt based on her financial stability and there is a sense of envy, but when it comes to music she immediately assumes the upper hand.
Conflicts & their representation:
One of the main struggles faced by Kambili is getting used to this lifestyle which is a stark contrast to what she lives with at her home. Here everyone speaks and talks and has a voice except her. Since her language has been controlled by her father for her whole life, getting used to the idea of expressing herself is quite alien to her. Here everyone has this sense of individuality and and everyone voices their opinions, and for Kambili to get used to that is quite a struggle. Even Amaka faces a struggle of dealing with a cousin who she believes is quite spoilt and she might be envious of her as well and therefore she constantly tries to one up her especially when she categorises her into “teenagers who listen to pop music”. However, Amaka associates financial situation with power which is not the case with Kambili. Amaka doesn’t take into account Kambili’s family household and her Papa’s role. Kambili has a personal struggle of fitting in. For Kambili, her struggle is shown in how it takes her time to process her surroundings and how she can barely manage to eat her lunch due to the inability to process the stark change that takes place between her house and Amaka’s. Character sketch: Amaka Amaka seems to be an individual with an opinionated mind. Since she has been allowed the freedom to express and speak, she has power in form of language.
However, in her family as language is not utilises as a vessel for power and domination, they portray themselves in form of opinions and self- expression. She is creative, outspoken and intellectual with awareness of her society and the scenario of her nation. Painting and music are symbolic of the freedom and liberty that the aunt allows them to follow in their house and since Amaka indulges in both of them it shows how independent and strong she is. She seems to be at ease with the mismatched chairs, cutlery and the lack of water in the bathrooms and very candidly showcases them to Kambili along with her small cassette player which shows how she isn’t hoping to create an illusion of perfection and is unapologetic about her financial and domestic stand. She is very proud of her African heritage and is culturally inclined, musically and as reflected in her art. Since she listens to indie music that “has something to say” it shows how she is interested in the outside world and the issues of today as opposed to Kambili who doesn’t get a lot of exposure to the realities of life. It shows how Amaka is more rational and tough which might be due to the liberal outlook she has on life. She is a stark contrast to Kambili and so is her lifestyle.