Themes Explored in Purple Hibiscus

1 January 2017

Five major issues explored in purple hibiscus are; domestic violence, oppression, religion, education and love. 2a) Adichie uses a narrative point of view to explore the theme of domestic violence. The book is narrated in the first person by a 15 year old who is directly affected by domestic violence. Because of her young age she is quiet honest and this allows her to paint a great picture to the audience of the brutal abuse that Eugene bestows upon his family. This is as a result of her sensitive, intelligent and observant nature. b) Oppression is explored through narrative point of view. Adichie uses the point of view of Kambili to show the audience how oppressed the country is not only in the Achike household but the whole of Nigeria. Again Kambili’s honesty and good descriptions help to give the readers an idea as of how oppressed the country and Eugene’s household really is. 2c) Adichie uses narrative point of view to explore the theme of religion. She uses this because Kambili the narrator is exposed to different kinds of religion, such as, fanatic Catholics, liberated Catholics and Traditionalists.

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Again, it is Kambili’s observant nature that helps to give the readers a good idea of what all of the practices are like. Kambili’s narration is also used to show the great impact that religion has on life. 2d) Education is also explored through narration. In the narration Kambili has an encounter with her father and Kambili’s father’s past gives us an idea of how important he thinks education is. 2e) Love is also explored through narration. Although Kambili is a 15 year old through her narration we are able to see that she loves father Amadi.

The love however is immature in because they have known each other for a very short time. Although the love narrated is not very mature it is still love. Adichie uses narration to show the audience that Kambili is in love and Adichie uses her narration to give us some hints of this love. 3a) Adichie bring out the theme of domestic violence through characterization. She uses all of her characters to bring out different aspects of domestic violence. All of the characters of Eugene’s household add to the theme of violence. Eugene is the abuser and he abuses his two children and his wife.

All of the characters respond to the violence in different ways and this shows the varying effects of violence on persons. Kambili’s reaction is constant fear. Jaja eventually becomes defiant and rebels against everything his father stands for whether good or bad and Beatrice is quiet and submissive, but eventually changes and kills Eugene. 3b) Oppression is also brought out through characterization. Nigeria in the time frame of the book is going through a period where political oppression is present and everyone is affected by it.

Eugene thinks that the military government is wrongfully oppressing the people and speaks out about this. Ifeoma like Eugene speaks out about the oppression in the country. Adichie uses these two characters to speak about the evils of political oppression. 3c) Religion is also explored through characterization. Adichie uses two characters to bring out the conflict that religion presents, these characters are Eugene and Papa Knukwu. She uses Eugene to present the Christian perspective and his father to present the Traditionalist.

Eugene is ethnocentric and this is what causes the conflict of religion between Eugene and his father, which causes Eugene to not speak with his father. 3d) Adichie brings out the theme of education through her characters. She uses Eugene to do so. Eugene often speaks of wanting the best for his children. Ifeoma is also seen wanting the best for her children. As this was one of the main reasons that Ifeoma went to America, because all of the good lecturers were leaving Nigeria and there would be no good teachers left to educate her children. 3e) Love is also explored through characterization.

A character in the book that Adichie uses to bring out love is Kambili. Adichie uses her to bring out two kinds of love, the one that burns and the one that makes you smile. Kambili sees the sips of scorching tea from her father as a representation of his love, this love is very painful. Amadi’s love on the other hand is not the painful kind of love but instead a joyous one. 4a) Adichie uses setting to explore domestic violence. Domestic violence is present in the Achike household. This setting is the only setting in the entire book where domestic violence is present.

Adichie uses a variety of things and rooms within this setting to bring out domestic violence some examples are the figurines, Eugene and Beatrice’s room and the bathroom. 4b) the entire setting of Nigeria brings out the theme of oppression especially political oppression. All of Nigeria is suffering as a result of the political oppression, including Abba Town, Enugu and Ifeoma’s village. The road setting also shows political oppression, especially when persons are stopped and searched by the military for no good reason. c) Religion is explored through setting, Adichie uses Aunty Ifeoma’s home to teach Kambili things about religion different that she had been taught be her father. It was in Aunty Ifeoma’s house that Kambili understood her grandfather’s traditionalist religion and was able to make a link between Catholicism and Traditionalist. 4d) A setting used to explore education is Aunty Ifeoma’s home. Aunty Ifeoma in her home speaks of the many young girls in the school who get married then allow their husbands to own them and their degrees. e) A setting Adichie uses to explore the theme of love is Aunty Ifeoma’s home where Kambili meets father Amadi and is introduced to a love different to the painful; one of her father. 5a) Adichie uses the motif of blood to explore the theme of domestic violence. Blood appears quite often in the novel. The first time it appeared was when Eugene abused Beatrice causing her to lose her baby. Many times after this incident Kambili sees blood and it continuously reminds her of her father’s abusive nature. 5b) Oppression is brought out by the flower motif.

The purple Hibiscus is a very rare and odd flower that blooms amongst conforming and normal red ones. This flower represents Eugene and Ifeoma who are two of the few people who speak out against the political oppression and also Jaja who decided to stand up against his father’s oppression. 5c) Adichie uses the red motif to explore the theme of religion. The colour red appears quite often and is symbolic to Pentecost. We realize that red is often times used to describe Eugene. Red is symbolic of power and it helps to show us Eugene’s great power and control especially as it pertains to religion.

This is seen when he demands that his family be strict Catholics, he not only wants his wife and children to be Catholics but also his father and when his father refuses to do so, he refuses to speak to him. 5d) Adichie uses the wall motif to explore education. Kambili’s school is described to have tall walls while Aunty Ifeoma’s university does not have very tall walls. The walls are significant to security and as we see Kambili’s high class education is secure while the education at Aunty Ifeoma’s school is not, but instead faces many challenges. 5e) Adichie uses the motif of broken things to explore the theme of love.

We see that before everything falls apart something breaks and when Sisi broke Mama’s china it represented the end of her father’s burning love and eventually the breaking of their home. 6a) Adichie uses similes to explore the theme of domestic violence. She uses similes to present better descriptions to the audience of the abuse bestowed upon the family. One example is on page 194 ‘He poured the hot water on my feet, slowly as if he was conducting an experiment and wanted to see what would happen’. This simile gives the audience a better idea of how Eugene burnt Kambili’s feet. 6b) Adichie uses irony to explore the theme of Oppression.

It is ironic that Eugene speaks out about the chaos and oppression in Nigeria but his own home is filled with chaos and he holds his own family under oppression. 6c) Adichie explores religion also by using irony. It is ironic that although Eugene claims that his father is a heathen who will die in hell if he does not change; his father appears to be a much better person than him, in that he genuinely prays for Eugene and is not abusive. She uses this irony to show that no religion is superior to any other and that religion does not determine how good someone is. 6d) Adichie uses irony to explore education.

It is ironic that although Eugene has an education he is rather ‘stupid’. And it appears that the good ‘white’ education his father allowed him to receive from the missionaries turned him against his father. 6e) Adichie uses contrast to explore love. She contrasts Father Amadi’s love for Kambili and Eugene’s love for Kambili. We see that Eugene’s love is filled with pain while father Amadi’s is filled with joy and laughter. 7a) Adichie uses interior monologue to explore domestic violence. This is seen with Kambili, in the hospital room, she is facing internal conflict as a result of her mother.

She wants to hug her and she wants to hit her, but she does not know what to do because although she loves her mother she is upset because her mother did nothing to defend her from the abuse at home. 7b) Interior monologue is also used to explore the theme of oppression. When Eugene caught Kambili and Jaja staring at the photo and Kambili decided that no matter what she would hold onto the photo it shows that in her mind she had decided to stand up against the oppression in their home by not confirming to Eugene’s ridiculous rule. 7c) Stream of Consciousness is used to explore religion.

Jaja finally becomes conscience that if the God of Christianity is like his father he no longer wants to be a catholic. This is why Jaja defies his father by no longer going to church. 7d) Interior monologue is used to explore Education. When Kambili came second she spoke continuously in her head. An example of this is on page 39 when Kambili says ‘… I knew Papa would not be proud’. This helps to show us that Papa is not proud unless they achieve perfection at school which is to place first. 7e) Adichie uses interior monologue to explore love.

Kambili uses it to speak of her father’s burning love. Kambili on page 31 says ‘… feeling the love burn my tongue’. This tells the audience that her father’s love is not warm and joyous but instead burning and painful. 8a) Adichie uses foreshadowing to explore domestic violence. She uses it to signify the end of the abuse. This is seen when Eugene throws the missal at Jaja but it misses and breaks the figurine. The figurines were what Beatrice cleaned when she was abused and the fact that they were broken meant that she would no longer need them since Eugene’s abuse would come to an end. b) She uses foreshadowing to explore oppression. The lion and the motto of the university foreshadows that Jaja would soon stand up against to oppression at home in an attempt to ‘Restore the dignity of man’ This actually does happen when Jaja returns home and defies his father. 8c) Adichie uses flashback to explore religion. Papa Knukwu told us a story of how Eugene became a Christian. Adichie uses this flash black to present the audience with the background facts of how Eugene became exposed to Catholicism and why he is so against his father’s traditionalist religion. d) Adichie uses flashback to explore the theme of Education. We are told how Papa got his education and this gives us an idea as of why Papa wants his children to get the best education since he knows how important it is. 8e) Adichie uses foreshadowing to explore the theme of love. She foreshadows love by the burning sip of tea Eugene gives to Kambili and Jaja. This foreshadows the kind of love that Eugene would offer them like the beatings, burning of feet etc.

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