Purple Hibiscus : Character Profiles - Mama Beatrice

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Nabilah Chowdhury, 11Ra Character Profile: Mama Beatrice
Character Profile ­ Mama Beatrice
"Her Igbo words were low and calming." She speaks quietly, part of her subservient attitude towards her
"She spoke the way a bird eats, in small amounts"
This is a juxtaposition because the bird symbolises freedom yet the "small amounts2 indicates that Mama is
fearful of speaking to much and earning herself a punishment.
Mama is almost being pulled down by the weight of the oppressing monotheist views of Eugene as can be
gathered by her "sagging breasts" and the fact that "God is love" is inscribed over them.
The "sagging cross shapes" that are placed beside the "gold-framed family photo" represent the fact that
slowly, just as the palm fronds, the family's religious way of life is beginning to droop and falter.
Mama could easily be forgotten for a lot of the book as she seems to blend in the background, as she is a
woman of few words. Even walking through the house she never made a sound and the conversations
Kambili describe with her were brief and rare- unlike those she had with her father, a lot of which resulted in
The `slip slap' had such great significance as Mama suddenly started to make noise which was a great shock
to the norm of the novel.
The slip slap can is also significant as it symbolises the beatings she had to bear. The use of onomatopoeia is
effective as it makes this particular point more forceful and more poignant in the reader's mind.
"It was not proper for older people to do the chores of young people"
It is a simple gesture but meaningful in the context of the issues presented in the book; authority vs. reason,
love vs. duty.
Her love for her family allows her to break minor rules (later on in the book, she breaks more rules)
In the market place, Mama watched the woman screaming and being beaten.
She symphonizes with the woman even though she is protected by her own status
She is recognising herself in the face of someone less fortunate
When Mama asks Papa to give Ifeoma gas cylinders, he accuses both of working together, which Mama
By adopting a submissive position, Mama is able to get what she wants- she cannot demand for anything.
Mama plaits Kambili's her weakly when she is hospitalised. Soon, Father Amadi takes her to get her hair
plaited professionally.
Mama's inability to plait her daughter's hair is symbolic of her inability to look after Kambili.
Mama's murder of Papa can be viewed as a military coup.
Symbolism of Figurines
The figurines are delicate and vulnerable. Their breakage is a symbol of what is to happen in the wider family,
and what is happening around them in Nigeria.
The fragility of the broken ornaments compares with the eventual break down of Mama's passivity.
Mama's figurines are a source of escapism from the tensions of home life, a silent therapy.
When she tells Kambili that she will not replace them, it is a signal that she is facing reality.
Mama provides a softer, warmer presence in the home in contrast to the often dictatorial presence of
Mama is the portrayal of oppression whilst Aunty Ifeoma is the image of freedom.
GCSE English Literature Exam Notes: Purple Hibiscus

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Nabilah Chowdhury, 11Ra Character Profile: Mama Beatrice
Mama has no use for logic and "university talk", and buys into the patriarchal paradigm. This contrasts with
Ifeoma, who refuses to submit to her brother's will.…read more


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