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Themes Explored in Purple Hibiscus

Aug 13, 2019 at Literature Essays

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus is a modern African novel. However, it deals not only with those themes that have a connection to Africa. In her work, Adichie explores the themes of nature and environment, domestic violence, silence and loneliness, politics, colonialism, religion, inequity, relationship between life and death, and women's search for equality among others. The author’s choice of themes indicates her knowledge of issues facing not only Africa but also the rest of the world. Adichie has used the issues in Africa, specifically Nigeria, in order to discuss the British literature. This essay demonstrates how the book reflects themes that characterized the Romantic, Victorian, and Modern periods in the British literature.

The Novel Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Purple Hibiscus"

One of the most important aspects that Adichie discusses is the theme of coming of age, when young boys reach manhood. Kambili says, "I looked at Jaja and wondered if the dimness in his eyes was a shame. I suddenly wished for him that he had done the ima mmuo, the initiation into the spirit world" (Adichie, 2003, p. 87). Her words show a ritual that was highly recognized and valued. Additionally, she discusses the theme of religion and uses it to show the conflict between ideologies. In the book, Father Benedict is a white man who conducts his masses according to the European customs, whereas Father Amandi is a Nigerian who shows a mixture of Igbo and Catholic traditions (Elkin, 2011, p. 63).


The African way of life was influenced by colonialism with some people feeling that it is a form of slavery and others embracing it. Papa-Nnukwu felt that colonialism held the Igbo people as slaves and forced them to betray their traditions and principles. On the other hand, Papa felt that colonialism was important, because it eased access to higher education and brought understanding (Johns, 2007, p. 111). After he had studied in missionary schools, he abandoned his traditions and took the cultures of the British, such as British-accented English speaking. Besides, he adopted western luxuries, such as satellite TV and music.

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After Nigeria had gained independence from the British, several coups that led to military rule occurred and corruption took center stage. Reflecting on the nature of the country, Obiora says, "Morality, as well as the sense of taste, is relative" (Adichie, 2003, p. 156). His words were influenced by the British. As Obiora was a son of a professor who had received education introduced by the British, his outlook and the way of thinking were much influenced by the British thought. He compares what happens at the University with what happens in the country as it is managed by one man without consideration of views from the other people. His role and reasoning in politics depicted the impact of colonialists and, in this case, the British in Africa (Sanders, 2004, p. 34).

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In the tradition discussed in the book, children were not allowed to do anything apart from what their parents instructed them to do. A good example is when Papa and Ade Coker say, "Imagine what the Standards would be if we were all quiet" (Adichie, 2003, p. 58). From the phrase, it is clear that Achike's children were not allowed to tell the truth about their lives, and this is contrary to Papa and Ade Coker who were seeking to tell the truth about the government. The inhibition of children's freedom is symbolic of the strict British rule.


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Adichie's book has succinctly expressed the struggle women underwent in their search of freedom, the loneliness and the silence they suffered, and the domestic violence that characterized their lives. It is evident in the words of Aunty lfeoma, when she says, "When a house is on fire, you run out before the roof collapses on your head" (Adichie, 2003, p. 123). Her words are directed to Mama, who is beaten by her husband, Enugu. The violence led to her miscarriage, and, as a result, she greatly suffers from loneliness in silence. Aunty lfeoma was urging her to seek a new life. The struggle by women to seek equality is shown by her (Mama) efforts to poison Papa. Finally, the use of a Flower (Purple Hibiscus) as a title shows human connection to nature. It symbolizes freedom and hope.


In conclusion, the analysis above shows that Adichie's book discusses issues that deal not only with the African context but also the themes of the British literature.

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