Purple Hibiscus is a first person point-of-view narrative that was written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and first published in 2003. This novel vividly depicts major themes of Religion, Gender, and Colonialism/Post-Colonialism through the eyes of a young, Nigerian girl by the name of Kambili.
Kambili resides within her home in Enugu alongside her brother, mother, and father – Jaja, Beatrice, and Eugene respectively. Although, to an outsider, they appear to be a family that is rather “well off”, everything is not as it seems. We – the readers – observe the abusive (yikes) nature of Kambili’s catholic father, as well as the gradual destruction of her home in Enugu. One is able to grow with her and learn of her innermost thoughts as she, unknowingly, embarks on a journey to find herself and freedom – through the existence of her Aunt, Ifeoma.
In fact, Kambili is not the only person on a journey of growth and self-actualization. Kambili’s brother, Jaja, is also a part of this journey – bringing forth the recurring motif of Indentity.
As readers, we are also able to get a glimpse of the deterioration of Nigeria’s government, paralleling the deterioration within Kambili’s home. Additionally, the novel begins in “media res” – Latin for “in the middle of things”. The distorted way in which the story is told contrasts Eugene’s obsession of order and perfection – furthering the idea of destruction and rebellion. To make reference to Chimamanda’s reference to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, it is safe to say that thing do – in fact – fall apart within this novel.
“Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines on the étagère.” – Kambili, Chimamanda’s reference to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
Eugene’s intolerance and rejection for the Igbo culture and religion (talk about self hatred) is also apparent – one can clearly identify his Catholic extremism. (I seriously couldn’t stand this guy. Spoiler Alert: I rejoiced when he died. 10/10 – would definitely dance on his grave.)
We see the experiences of both women and men who are forced to conform to society’s gender roles and stereotypes – whether these roles reside within Igbo culture or the Catholic religion.
The notions of freedom and true happiness for Kambili and Jaja are found within the home of their Aunt, Ifeoma – in Nsukka. Unique to the yard of Ifeoma resides the purple hibiscus, the title of this compelling read and a symbol of the very thing Jaja, Kambili, and even Beatrice eventually obtain – freedom.
Overall, Purple Hibiscus is a read which both entertains and educates the reader. Even if you do not agree with certain aspects of this story, it still provides one with insight and a different perspective in regards to issues in society – especially Nigerian society. Therefore, this post-colonial novel deserves 4 out of 5 purple hibiscuses.
Well, don’t just take my word for it! Feel free to click here and buy Purple Hibiscus on Amazon!