Adichie's Use Of Detail

An analysis of pages 46-47 of Purple Hibiscus

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Nigerian-born Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie began her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, with the
universally recognisable `things started to fall apart at home...'. It is uncertain whether this opening
line was purely coincidental or the carefully planned ploy by the beginner, to borrow a line from her
compatriot, and idol ­ Chinua Achebe.
Purple Hibiscus, set in modern-day Nigeria, epitomises beauty and richness of the country.
Purple Hibiscus, like Nigeria is a paradox in itself. Whilst portraying the beauty of the country, it is
unafraid of displaying its trauma, tragedy, desperation, resignation, and political tribulations. Reading
Purple Hibiscus is to relive life in Nigeria for those aware of the trials and tribulations one is faced
with, but for those who perchance, might have just received an insight to Nigerian life through the
eyes of protagonist Kambili Achike; it is a shock therapy education into the life.
The internal confliction of identity which Eugene undergoes throughout the course of the
novel is projected upon his two children, Jaja and Kambili. His tendency to select his identity on the
basis of his societal circumstances leave the two siblings lost and unsure of which identity is most
important to pursue in order to please their father, Eugene. The fact that `papa changed his accent
when he spoke...especially with the white religious' shows what a difference the way in which one
speaks makes to their status in society.
When in conversation with Sister Margaret, one of the Sisters at Kambili's school, Daughters
of the Immaculate Heart, regarding a reception the following week, Eugene changes his accent `just
as he did with Father Benedict'. It's almost as if he is attempting to associate the Igbo dialect with
being of a lower status, and that of the English to be higher. This is almost a trademark of the
colonisation which took place in Nigeria by the English, simply because of the fact that the English (the
colonisers) were higher than those ordinary common men of Nigeria. Eugene also speaks in English in
order to eradicate any former link(s) he personally held to the Igbo tradition and culture. The idea
that `Igbo was not acceptable' Eugene engraved into his children's minds ensured a sure way of
distancing himself from all tradition because it will in no way re-appear if even his children know that
it is an unacceptable form of speech and living.
Adichie, as a writer of post-colonial fiction, interacts with the traditional colonial discourse,
but modifies it by retelling the story through an oppressed minor character, Kambili. This is a large
factor in allowing the readers to be able to connect to the novel and the emotions the characters
endure throughout it. When Kambili is pointing out Chinwe to Eugene, she notices that `Chinwe's light
skinned the center of the group, as usual'. Eugene's oppression on his children's daily lives
is evident in this particular part of the novel simply because of the fact that Kambili is too afraid of
expressing herself and being who she really wants to be rather than the `backyard snob' her
classmates assume her to be.
The idea that writers of post-colonial fiction helped to shape a societal fantasy of European
racial superiority is supported by the fact that Chinwe being `light skinned' is at the `center of the
group'. This is evidence of the fact that regardless of the time passed since colonialism took place,
the impacts are everlasting on the society and those to come. Chinwe's light skin gives her an almost
automated boost in conjunction with societal circumstances and prejudices. This boost in societal
status is not due to any outstanding attribute of Chinwe's but simply due to the after effects of
colonisation by the English.
A major feature of the Nigerian traditional society has been patriarchy. The tradition itself is a
system of social stratification and differentiation on the basis of sex, which enables men to dominate
women. In Purple Hibiscus, it is evident that Eugene does not hold himself exempt from the
patriarchal tradition, but plays a large role in presenting the way in which patriarchy shows itself in
modernised times. Eugene enforces this patriarchy, not just on his wife, but also on his daughter,
Kambili, `Papa pulled a small mirror, the size of a powder compact...look in the mirror'. Although, it
wouldn't seem as though this simple request for Kambili to look in the mirror would not seem to be
Ayesha Khanom 11L

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Kambili describes the mirror to be like the size of a `powder compact'. A powder compact is
a type of concealing cosmetic product; to incorporate this idea of concealment with Eugene's
dictating personality, the mirror is given a whole different meaning.…read more


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