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When you hear the word "pretty," you probably picture a beautiful hibiscus, or maybe even a glistening one. Whether you associate this flower with religion or not, it is a beautiful plant that makes us think of our parents and grandparents. This colorful flower is a symbol of beauty and spirituality, and its appearance in the novel Purple Hibiscus makes us think of the color purple, too.
This novel is set in post-colonial Nigeria, a nation plagued with economic problems and political instability. The main character, fifteen-year-old Kambili Achike, comes from a wealthy family in Enugu State and is a member of a religiously strict family. Her father, a religious tyrant, beats her mother and has two miscarriages. As she grows up, she learns about the joys of life, but struggles to overcome her father's overprotectiveness and clinging to his faith.
The book explores the disintegration of the family and Kambili's struggle to mature. She and her brother spend time with their father's sister, Ifeoma. Ifeoma's household practice a different version of Catholicism, which encourages curiosity and speaking one's mind. The novel's themes are relevant today, with a global audience and a plethora of different audiences.
In "Aunty Ifeoma's Purple Hibiscus," Kambili, Jaja, and Papa (the author) are raised by their aunt, Ifeoma, a widow and devout Catholic. While Papa Eugene is a strict, pious Catholic and oppresses his children, Aunty Ifeoma practices traditional Igbo beliefs and uses nonviolent means to communicate. In the end, Aunty Ifeoma and Eugene come to love each other as much as they do. They both try to be Catholics, but they are also contrastingly polar opposites. Ifeoma and Eugene both teach their children Catholicism, and Eugene disciplines them to be prejudiced against heathens.
In "Aunty Ifeoma's Purple Hibiscus," a deliberately subversive character demonstrates the importance of gender and intergenerational silence. In this novel, children learn to practice silence from their mothers. In "Aunty Ifeoma's Purple Hibiscus," Kambili and her mother speak through "their spirits," which they have dubbed "their purple hibiscus." But Aunty Ifeoma and Amaka have a different relationship. Amaka embodies both the inquisitiveness and loudness of Aunty Ifeoma, and Amaka is a more subtle, but equally powerful female role model for the story.
Aunty Ifeoma is the daughter of Papa Eugene and she has no desire to participate in the Purple Hibiscus tradition. In fact, she would like to relegate it to the dustbin of history, which she feels is not necessary to the healing of the community. In the book, she explores colonial ideologies, feminist thinking, and gender issues. She wants to empower people to be who they are.
The book is set in a recent military coup, causing escalating violence towards the country's citizens. In addition to the coup itself, the military-backed regime also causes a shortage of fuel, water, electricity, and money to pay workers. This results in multiple public strikes, increased prices, and a mass influx of migrants. And, the censorship of the media has a powerful effect on the lives of Africans.
The religious hibiscus that appears in Purple Hibiscus
The religious hibiscus that appears throughout the novel reflects Jaja's desire for freedom and his love of gardening. This plant, grown outside of Aunt Ifeoma's home, represents his first act of freedom from his father. It marks the beginning of Jaja's rebellion against his papa and shows him that the power to make his own choices is his own.
The book begins and ends on Palm Sunday, a Christian festival that celebrates the sacrifice of Jajas. The story also focuses on the struggle of traditional Catholics who cannot move beyond the Old Testament and ignore basic Christian behavior. Adichie uses rich, sacred colors to highlight the conflict. She highlights the pain and reverence associated with purple and red. It's a novel that's full of symbolism and can't be summarized in one paragraph.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If you're looking for a novel that'll move you from your seat to the page, you should consider Purple Hibiscus by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi. The book first came out in 2003 from Algonquin Books. While the novel is a scathing critique of racism, it is still a fascinating read.
The plot of this book has many twists and turns. The main character, Eugene, is the only African character in the book. He is educated by missionaries from the West and loses his native roots to embrace European culture. Eugene's search for independence and self-awareness is echoed in Adichie's story. While the book's plot focuses on the struggles of a young black man named Eugene, it also addresses the challenges of racism, oppression, and injustice.
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